Dozens Of Murder Cases In Question After Detective Allegedly Mishandled Evidence

Public/Screenshot/Website: ABC15 Arizona

Julianna Frieman Contributor
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A former Phoenix homicide detective allegedly mishandled evidence in dozens of murder cases, causing confusion and concern, according to a local news outlet.

Officials discussed Detective Jennifer DiPonzio’s alleged misconduct during a March 24 special consolidated court hearing, ABC15 Arizona reported Wednesday. The ex-detective resigned before an investigation occurred.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys know 37 court cases and roughly 61 police investigations were affected, but the full extent of evidentiary problems remains unknown, according to the outlet. Those numbers do not account for any prior convictions or completed plea deals.

“Det. Jennifer DiPonzio had her fingers, as it goes in the metaphor, in a lot of murder pies,” defense attorney Shawn Collins said to the court during the hearing, the outlet reported. “We know this has been an issue since July 2021. She’s trained other people. She was involved in other murders … A huge number of cases is going to come out to be affected by this.”

DiPonzio went on industrial disability leave for an undisclosed psychological issue in July 2021 before her resignation, according to ABC15. Maricopa County prosecutors withheld information about DiPonzio’s alleged condition, and defense attorneys believe the state should provide more information about the detective’s purported medical problems and the cases she was involved in, the outlet reported. (RELATED: Oakland Police Chief Placed On Leave After Report Finds He Mishandled Investigation)

“The Phoenix Police Department knew about the mishandling of evidence, the errors and inconsistencies, a long, long time ago,” defense attorney Bobbi Falduto said during the hearing, according to ABC15. “DiPonzio went on industrial leave July 28th of 2021 … We received a one-page supplement, that listed eight or ten lieutenants, sergeants, detectives from the homicide bureau, that they had gone into Det. DiPonzio’s workspace on July 9th of 2022, almost a year later, and that was when they allegedly found a hoard of evidence that she had not impounded, supplemented, turned in, whatever it was. They took the boxes and went through all of the evidence.”

Although the consolidated hearing addressed DiPonzio’s alleged misconduct, she was not added to Maricopa County’s “Brady List,” a public database disclosing any officers with integrity concerns, the outlet reported. Arizona’s constitution requires exculpatory “Brady” material to be released.

Judge Jennifer Green indicated she will increase the amount of publicly-available information regarding DiPonzio’s alleged role in the 37 murder cases.

DiPonzio’s name is listed on the department’s internal “Tier 2” Brady List, the outlet reported, citing the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

“The Phoenix Police Department takes the integrity of our investigations very seriously,” Phoenix Police said in a statement, according to ABC15. “In accordance with discovery requirements, we have been continuously working with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to assist in bringing these cases to resolution.”