An Aurora Cop's Credibility Is at Issue in the Francis Hernandez Trial

February 2010

Immigration status may not have been the hot-button issue everyone expected in Francis Hernandez's trial on charges of killing three people after crashing an SUV into an Aurora ice cream shop. Instead, another major concern is clouding the proceedings---a possible police cover-up---reports the Aurora Sentinel. Questions surround Aurora Detectives Johnny Lee and Pat Hardin, as well as a blank arrest affidavit found on Lee's computer and a second arrest affidavit produced by Hardin. The competing affidavits are not the first documents to be called into question. Last week, the trial was stopped for several hours after attorneys learned that an officer who interviewed Hernandez the night of the crash failed to turn over his notes to the defense. Then, on Wednesday, Lee testified that his arrest affidavit contained "inaccurate evidence," and it did not state that a witness said he saw two people in Hernandez's SUV after the crash (via The Denver Post). That evidence contradicts the prosecution's contention that Hernandez was the sole occupant and driver of the vehicle. Also on Wednesday, Aurora police officer Javen Harper shared his concerns that Lee may have "covered something up in the case" with the district attorney's office. Yesterday, he testified about those concerns, bringing to light an internal investigation by the Aurora Police Department into the handling of evidence (via Fox31). The testimony brought the trial to a "screeching halt," and it is not expected to resume until this afternoon, notes the Sentinel. Lee's credibility is "central to this case," says public defender Chris Baumann. "If you can't trust the messenger, my argument to the jury is you can't trust the message."