Did a cop's racist remark need to be disclosed? For a prisoner, the answer took years

Richard Lathan wasn't sure how to react when he got a letter in July informing him that the Los Angeles police detective who helped put him in prison for murder had made a

racist remark about Black people. A glimmer of optimism that the revelation could win him a new trial collided with the profound anger he felt about the more than three

decades he has spent in prison for a crime he says he didn't commit. Lathan had always suspected the detective, Brian McCartin, targeted him simply because he was Black and a gang

member. And something else about the letter bothered Lathan: It said McCartin, who is now retired, made the remarks in 2014. The Los Angeles County district attorney's

office, however, didn't notify Lathan about them until this summer — eight years after prosecutors first learned of the comments and four years after The Times published a

front-page story detailing them. Why, he wondered, hadn't he been told sooner? It is a basic rule of the U.S. justice system that prosecutors must turn over to

defendants evidence that could help exonerate them, including information that calls into question the credibility of police officers involved in their cases. Failure to disclose

such information — called Brady material, after Brady vs. Maryland, the landmark 1963 Supreme Court ruling that established the rule — can result in a conviction being thrown out

or a new appeal granted. How this obligation is carried out, however, is less clear, as law enforcement officers often fight to keep allegations of misconduct under wraps

and prosecutors serve as gatekeepers, deciding whether or not to disclose information.