TX Prosecutors Open Files to Defense to Prevent Wrongful Convictions


As 2014 approaches, Texas district and county attorneys are preparing to implement a new law that aims to prevent wrongful convictions by requiring prosecutors to open their files to defense lawyers, reports the Texas Tribune. The Michael Morton Act, approved this year, requires prosecutors to disclose evidence in their files to defense lawyers in criminal cases. Morton was sentenced to life in prison for his wife's murder. After he spent nearly a quarter-century in prison, DNA evidence revealed that he was innocent, and an investigation of the case revealed that the prosecutor had not disclosed evidence that could have prevented a wrongful conviction.

In many large counties, prosecutors have long had open-file policies, so the transition to the new law is less challenging. In smaller counties where sharing such large volumes of information is not routine, establishing the basic nuts and bolts of transferring reams of data while not exposing private information is a big task to tackle. “Some of the big issues are just how you physically distribute it whether that be by web, paper, electronic or otherwise,” said Robert Kepple of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. County attorneys are asking what kinds of software and redacting tools could be used to share information required under the law while safeguarding items that could jeopardize the safety of witnesses and victims.

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