MA Evidence Ruling Will Cut Down On “Gotcha Moments”


There will be fewer “gotcha moments” in Massachusetts courts when a lawyer confronts a witness on the stand with evidence that the witness is lying, says the New York Times. A recent 4-3 ruling of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said that judges in criminal trials can compel defense lawyers to give the prosecution evidence that they plan to use to cross-examine prosecution witnesses.

That makes Massachusetts one of three states with such a rule. The others are New Jersey and Minnesota, although courts in some states have ordered the defense to produce such information. Federal courts and most state courts do not require defense lawyers to tell prosecutors about information that could impeach the credibility of a prosecution witness. Legal experts say the decision is striking because Massachusetts is considered a judicial trend-setter and is perceived as liberal. Some defense lawyers in New Jersey and Minnesota said mandatory disclosures could lead to more pleas and dismissals before trial. The Massachusets decision was based on the concept of reciprocal discovery, which requires both sides to turn over information so that neither side is ambushed at trial.


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