Fake Drugs, Real Lives
From January through September 2002, this investigative series revealed that confidential informants working with Dallas police planted powdered Sheetrock or billiard chalk near unsuspecting Mexican immigrants to contrive drug cases. Reporter Brett Shipp and Producer Mark Smith found that nearly half the Dallas Police Department’s alleged cocaine seizures in 2001 contained little or no illegal drugs. The broadcasts helped spur an on-going federal investigation, confessions by three informants, and dismissals of 80 drug charges against more than 50 defendants, many of whom had languished in jail for months. The series established that paid informants may corrupt the justice system—and possibly the police assigned to supervise them. A federal grand jury has begun to hear allegations that several police officers pocketed thousands of dollars in informant payments, forged payment vouchers and falsified arrest reports and drug field tests. These broadcasts, from Shipp, Smith, News Director David Duitch, and Editor Kraig Kirchem helped educate the public and spur major changes in drug prosecutions. For helping to free innocent victims from jail and leading to confessions by guilty informants, a Peabody Award goes to Fake Drugs, Real Lives, from WFAA-TV, Dallas.