Under a Washington Supreme Court rule change, suspects have the right to retain descriptions of their crimes and even pass them along to cellmates, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Formerly, if jailed defendants wanted to see the documents prosecutors had compiled against them — called “discovery” — they could see them only for a limited time and only in the presence of their attorneys.
Under a rule change effective this month, defendants awaiting trial may ask to receive copies of witness and victim statements and other sensitive discovery materials . The changes have been fought for years by victims’ rights advocates and prosecutors, who argue that the safety of witnesses — and of victims — could be endangered. “It allows a defendant charged with rape, or any sex offense, to keep in his cell, for his own use or enjoyment, forever, the victim’s description of exactly what happened to her,” complains King County prosecutor Kristin Richardson. Overburdened defense lawyers had said they were forced to spend precious hours sitting in rooms with their clients going over information sent to them by prosecutors. Bob Boruchowitz of The Defender Association said the change would allow defendants to review the charges against them more thoroughly, and might lead to more plea bargains.