The city's police union sent out a letter yesterday urging its membership to "no longer cooperate" with public defenders after one accused an officer of planting evidence in the case against a man later convicted of killing Officer Michael J. Cowdery.
The letter tells union members to "show their disgust with the actions of the Public Defender's Office" and to stop accepting plea bargains, probation before judgments or allowing prosecutors to put cases on the inactive docket for a year. Though only prosecutors have the authority to offer deals, they often ask police for advice about them.
Gary McLhinney, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, said he was "disgusted" by how John P. Markus, a public defender, accused Officer Robert Jackson of planting a gun next to his client, Howard "Wee" Whitworth, during closing arguments last week.
Markus said Jackson put the gun near his client to frame him, though he told jurors that he had no evidence to support his theory. Whitworth, 27, was convicted Monday of first-degree murder in the death of Cowdery, a plainclothes officer who was shot to death in March last year.
Whitworth shot Cowdery in the leg and head. Whitworth ran from the scene, followed by another officer. The officer and Whitworth exchanged gunfire, wounding both. Police recovered the gun near Whitworth. Ballistics experts testified that bullets from the gun killed Cowdery.
Officials with the public defender's office could not be reached for comment yesterday. Police officials declined to comment on the union letter. Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, could not be reached yesterday.
"If I was a defendant arrested in Baltimore City, I'd be getting a real lawyer for the next couple of weeks because 'let's make a deal' has ended," McLhinney said.