Federal judge slams City of Detroit for destroying e-mails in stripper slaying case

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A federal judge slammed the City of Detroit and its former top lawyer today for destroying e-mails that might have shed light on the slaying of a stripper, but also said he’s struggling with whether a long-running lawsuit by the woman’s family can proceed to trial.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen affirmed the earlier ruling of a magistrate and ordered the city to pay legal fees and costs to Norman Yatooma, the lawyer representing Tamara’s Greene’s family in the lawsuit.

In his written opinion, Rosen called the city’s conduct egregious, absurd and disingenuous for allowing the e-mails of then-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and other city officials to be destroyed, preventing their use in the case.

No one has proven the e-mails would have contained incriminating information, but in their absence, the judge ruled that a jury can be told the city destroyed evidence and they can make of that fact whatever they wish.

Rosen singled out former corporation counsel John Johnson, his successor Krystal Crittendon, and John Schapka, the main attorney on the case, for making excuses.

“It is utterly irresponsible for the City and its counsel to seek to minimize their culpability, shift the blame, and throw up their hands and profess bewilderment at what they possibly could have done wrong or done differently,” Rosen wrote.

The defendants in the case, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and the City of Detroit, have asked Rosen to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of evidence. Lawyers for Kilpatrick and the city have argued that after months of depositions and evidence gathering, attorney Norman Yatooma has failed to turn up any evidence that Kilpatrick or the city covered up her murder investigation to prevent her killers from being found.

Yatooma, who represents Greene’s three children, has said that the city destroyed potentially critical evidence by failing to preserve e-mails by Kilpatrick, and other officials — and by allowing their computers to be thrown out in early 2008. He also said someone removed several documents and other items from Greene’s homicide file.

Greene, 27, was killed in a drive-by shooting in April 2003, some six months after she supposedly danced at the long-rumored, but never-proven Manoogian Mansion party. Her three children sued the City of Detroit and Kilpatrick saying they covered up her murder investigation to prevent her killers from being found.

http://www.freep.com/article/20111005/NEWS01/111005031/Federal-judge-slams-City-Detroit-destroying-e-mails-stripper-slaying-case

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