DALLAS - A murder suspect featured in FOX 4’s Trackdown segment will bond out of jail because of the massive data loss at the Dallas Police Department.
Jonathan Pitts, charged with a 2019 murder at a Dallas hotel that’s now shut down, was scheduled to go on trial this week, but is now scheduled to be released from jail on bond as the courts sort through what evidence is and is not available for trial because of an unprecedented amount of investigative data lost by Dallas PD.
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"You know, a truckload of information," attorney Russell Wilson said.
Wilson is a criminal defense attorney and former Dallas County prosecutor. He's not involved in the Pitts case, but could have clients impacted by the data loss
"The whole purpose of storing the data is to help ensure the accuracy in the criminal process," Wilson said.
The Dallas Police Department said a city employee in the IT department accidentally permanently deleted eight terabytes of data while performing migration between servers. To put eight terabytes into perspective, one terabyte can hold 250,000 photos and 6 million documents.
"The more significant the criminal case, generally, the greater the amount of data that’s generated, the more witnesses that have to be interviewed, the more body camera information there is, things of that nature," Wilson explained.
Wilson said the data loss could affect tens to thousands of cases.
It happened back in April, but Dallas police only notified the district attorney’s office last week, when prosecutors started asking questions about missing files.
"So, for example, if you had somebody’s statement and they had admitted the commission of a crime, and that was destroyed, then it’s very unlikely they could use that evidence to prosecute," Wilson said.
The city is conducting a full audit to see if Dallas police may have previously uploaded any files to a different system before deletion.
"It’s going to have an impact, but the impact is still unclear because we don’t have specificity in what exactly is missing," Wilson said.
Late Saturday afternoon, Dallas police responded to questions about the Pitts murder case, saying: "all the evidentiary items and data are available for prosecution on this murder case."
Pitts’ trial is now continued. Pitts will have to wear an electronic leg monitor while out on a personal recognizance bond.
"It’s very troubling," Wilson said.
Now, prosecutors and defense attorneys wonder what additional cases might be affected and what might happen to those suspects if evidence against them is missing?
"You could seek anything from a dismissal of the case, or it could impact how you try to resolve the case," Wilson explained. "It can prohibit the prosecution from going forward at all."
This is the first known case impacted by the data loss.