'Missing' notes emerge in cop killing trial; perjury possible, judge warns

Judge Forrest Bridges
Judge Forrest Bridges
Demeatrius Montgomery
Demeatrius Montgomery

By Sharon Smith - bio l email and Steve Crump - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A week after former detective Arvin Fant's name came up in court, his actions still fuel lingering questions surrounding evidence in the Demeatrius Montgomery trial.

Monday, it was shared in open court that both the defense and prosecution teams reviewed newly discovered documents in Fant's investigation and that was the reason court was abruptly dismissed Friday.

Police Chief Rodney Monroe said officers searched Fant's home for more evidence and he's working to bring more transparency to his department in light of the recent problems.

"Officer Fant made the statement himself that he had cut and paste and redid his notes on other cases. So we want to look at those cases," Monroe said.

An independent panel is looking at 18 cases homicide investigations handled by Fant. It will be headed by Former Superior Court Judge Shirley Fulton who wants to make sure Fant's work is accurate.

"[So] that everyone can go to trial with a clear mind and fair representation of what the evidence really is," according to Fulton.

Last week, Fant testified that his notes were destroyed, but Monday morning in court. WBTV learned the missing paper turned up.

"We made a concerted effort to look at officer Fant's office, his desk, his locker," said Chief Monroe.  "[We] even visited him at home to make sure that we collected all information."

Monroe isn't saying how the notes were discovered, and what Fant's future will be with CMPD.

"We don't want to move too fast on any one of these aspects, until we have a complete understanding of what's involved in these cases," Monroe said.

The panel had its first meeting Monday afternoon.

It was one more curve in what was a roller coaster first week.

Last Monday, Montgomery initially refused to come out of his cell, and still has not spoken in court.

Tuesday, Officer Fant testified to re-writing his original notes to make them neater. He admitted on the stand that he destroyed some notes and then plagiarized another detective's work and lied about it to his superiors and the lead prosecutor, Marsha Goodenow.

Goodenow and Fant's sergeants testified that they did not know about Fant's evidence violation until weeks before the trial, despite repeated requests for his full report.

Then, Wednesday, Fant called his sergeant to say there "could" be missing notes at his desk. Homicide detectives searched a box which turned up nothing.

Now based on Friday's dismissal, it's clear another set of "missing notes" turned up.

The sloppy police work has cast a cloud over the case, even the Judge admitted last week. Fant's notes are believed to deal a witness who says another man shot the officers. That possible suspect bears a striking resemblance to Montgomery. Goodenow says the information was vetted and found inconsistent with their evidence.

She also said the interview was recorded and that one officer's work should not reflect on 300 other officers involved in the case.

The Fant episodes seem to have taken center stage in a trial where Montgomery is accused of shooting Officers Sean Clark and Jeff Shelton at point-blank range at the Timber Ridge Apartments in 2007. The officers were responding to a disturbance call.

Upon having the weekend to review Fant's once-missing notes, defense attorney Duane Bryant said, "The more we look, the more we pause, the more we're concerned."

Both sides said the documents turned up no new information.

"There is a discovery issue, but aside from that, we are prepared to go forward," said Bryant. He questioned if they will ever really know what is missing from Fant's investigation.

Judge Bridges brought up possible perjury charges, if Fant's paperwork is not a verbatim transcript of his original notes, as he testified.

Also Monday, Judge Bridges ruled the defense cannot speak to the jury about sanctions imposed on the trial. Last week, Bridge threw out the death penalty because of those evidence issues.

Bridges said the sanctions are not relevant to whether juror can serve, and they don't change the factual matters of the case.

Jury selection resumed with a few potential jurors dismissed. One man said he could not work a graveyard shift and stay focused in court. He was afraid of the financial toll from being in court several more weeks.

Another dismissed juror, a dentist at a local clinic, said hundreds of children would go without dental care if he was selected.

Another juror said she would try to separate media reports from the evidence in the case, but it would be hard. "The heart of the matter might betray me," she said.

The woman was referring to the fact that two police officers lost their lives in the line of duty.

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