The Prosecution’s Duty to Disclose Exculpatory EvidenceCriminal trials are serious business, and a defendant’s rights are enshrined in law. You have a right to due process. The prosecution is required to play fairly. Playing fairly means if the prosecution has evidence that you didn’t commit the offense charged or evidence that would reasonably be expected to help your defense, the prosecution must disclose that evidence to your criminal defense lawyer.

The Brady rule

The Brady rule refers to a Supreme Court case called Brady v. Maryland. The case dates back to 1963, and is a due process case under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled that when a prosecutor intentionally withholds exculpatory and material evidence from a defendant, that act violates the defendant’s due process rights. The withholding of the information is a “deliberate deception of court and jury.”

In Brady, two co-defendants were charged with murder while committing a robbery. Prior to the trial of the co-defendant Brady, the other co-defendant confessed to the murder. Even though the defense lawyers specifically asked for any statements by the co-defendant, the prosecutor intentionally did not disclose this crucial piece of evidence – the confession. Brady was found guilty and sentenced to death before his lawyer discovered the confession.

The US Supreme Court, based on this willful nondisclosure, vacated Brady’s sentence and ordered a new sentencing hearing. Today, the disclosure requirements imposed by Brady are well-known though prosecutors sometimes try to argue the evidence isn’t “material.”

Giglio vs. US.

In a more recent case, Giglio v. United States, the Supreme Court applied the Brady doctrine in a case involving the lack of credibility of a co-defendant. The prosecutor failed to disclose that a co-conspirator received immunity from prosecution in return for the co-conspirator’s testimony. The critical point is that the Supreme Court reasoned that the credibility of a witness is an exculpatory factor.

Experienced criminal defense lawyers routinely ask the prosecution for all exculpatory evidence. Exactly what evidence is exculpatory, what evidence affects credibility, and what evidence is material is decided on a case-by-case basis.

At Carey Law Office, we believe in the rule of law, and your right to due process and a fair trial. If you are facing criminal charges, we are here to help. To schedule a consultation at one of our office locations in Bowie, Crofton, or Owings, please call us at 301-464-2500 or use our contact form.