ABC News Channel 9

Evidence Evasion: How Late Discoveries Skew the Scales of Justice in 2 Hamilton County Homicide Cases

November 9, 2023

Two recent homicide cases in Hamilton County, Tennessee, have claims of evidence being delayed or not turned over, leading to a suspect in one case being bonded out, and the other suspect in a separate case having charges dropped.

Nola Cross, Alfred Pitmon’s sister, told us that she was frustrated when she found out Menifee made the lower bond.

“What on earth are they going to do. Why is there another bond on him? Again, I know it needs to be revoked. He needs no bond,” says Cross.

Court transcript states the Assistant District Attorney handling the case did not turn over “voluminous’ ‘ amounts of evidence despite having it in their possession for over a year.

District Attorney Coty Wamp sent a statement, saying her office rejects the allegations.

Just two weeks later after bonding out, Chattanooga Police arrested Menifee and charged him with murder a second time, for the April 14th murder of Deountay Brown on Dodson Avenue.

In a separate Hamilton County case, Ooltewah hairdresser Patrick Godwin was shot and killed back in 2020. At the time, Sanel Durakovic was arrested and charged.

His attorney told us in September that there were difficulties for prosecutors in finding “proof” in the case.

Those murder charges were later dropped.

Court transcript reveals Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman expressed frustration with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Officebecause of a delay in turning over evidence to the attorneys of suspect Sanel Durakovic – indicating the reason why the charges were dropped.

We reached out to criminal justice experts to find answers to questions about claims of delayed evidence.

How common do we see delays in court cases due to evidence?

Buck Dougherty is Senior Counsel Liberty Justice Center. The Liberty Justice Center is a non-profit based in Chicago. They represent individuals, families, small business owners, and more anytime there’s government overreach.

Dougherty says delays in evidence happen more often than we might think.

“The discovery process is tough, it’s long, it’s arduous, I think the rules and certainly are designed to try to make it more efficient. But, you know, the evidence is always a problem,” says Dougherty.”

Who is responsible when delayed or missing evidence causes court cases to be delayed?

Rick Dierenfeldt, associate professor of criminal justice at UTC says, “It’s really a failing of the system. In most cases, it’s hard to put blame and shouldn’t be placed on one particular investigator, or one particular department.”

What are the consequences of delaying homicide cases?

“The most tragic one is going to be a lack of justice and a last lack of closure, not just for the victim, but for their loved ones, especially in a homicide case” says Dierenfeldt.