Lawyers Cite Repeated Evidence-Disclosure Problems


Dismissing charges against former Alaska senator Ted Stevens, the judge said prosecutorial failures to turn over exculpatory evidence were symptomatic of a larger problem within the Justice Department. Such failures are happening across our criminal justice system, Albert Brault and Timothy Maloney of the American College of Trial Lawyers write in the Washington Post, citing several other major cases. A 2003 report of the trial lawyer group concluded that “prosecutors routinely defer [disclosures of exculpatory material] unless ordered by the trial court [] often producing little, if any favorable information for months, in some cases not until trial is underway, and in other cases, not at all.”

To reduce subjectivity, the trial lawyers college urges adopting discovery rules that create “clear, bright lines” and codify court decisions interpreting a 46-year-old Supreme Court decision on the issue called Brady vs. Maryland. Although a federal rules committee voted to recommend adoption, they were rejected in 2006 in the face of Justice Department opposition.

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