A Buffalo, New York, cold case squad detective was suspended without pay this week for speaking publicly about two cold cases in which evidence showed that a man and woman were in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Dennis Delano, a 28-year veteran of the Buffalo Police Department, has been suspended for allegedly compromising the nature of investigations with his public statements.
Delano’s work has been key to the release of two wrongfully convicted individuals in Buffalo in recent months – Anthony Capozzi and Lynn DeJac. Capozzi was exonerated by DNA evidence last year after serving two decades in prison for two rapes he didn’t commit. DeJac was officially cleared yesterday when prosecutors dropped all pending charges against her. She served 13 years for allegedly killing her 13-year-old daughter in 1933. Three medical examiners have now said the girl died of a cocaine overdose, not strangulation.
Nationwide, police officers and other law enforcement authorities can play an important role in uncovering wrongful convictions – often through investigations of other cold cases that reveal evidence of wrongful convictions. Capozzi and DeJac have both publicly said that without Delano’s commitment to uncovering the truth in their cases, they would not have been exonerated.
The suspension of Detective Delano has caused a stir in Buffalo today, with his supporters saying he was being unfairly punished for continuing to pursue the DeJac case against direct orders from superiors.
"The charges against Mr. Delano are extremely serious in nature and his actions have compromised the integrity of the Buffalo Police Department," today’s statement (from Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson) said.
Police sources previously said Gipson had suspended Delano with pay this week for allegedly providing an investigative videotape from the Lynn DeJac case to a local television station.
Read the full story here
. (Buffalo News, 02/29/08)
DeJac and her supporters do not believe her daughter died of a cocaine overdose. They have suggested that the police and prosecutor changed the cause of death to avoid being held accountable for DeJac’s wrongful conviction. The crime scene video that aired on local television news stations supported the theory that the girl died from violence (rather than a drug overdose). There is no evidence that Delano provided the video to the local television station.