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How the Brady Case May Impact You

Jan 16, 2019 by Mike McKneely in Criminal Defense

Brady v. Maryland is a 1963 Supreme Court case that affects the rights of defendants in criminal cases. Essentially, Brady dictates that prosecutors must disclose to the defense any evidence that might help the defendant make their case for innocence. As the Supreme Court put it in the subsequent case of United States v. Bagley in 1985, the government must disclose exculpatory evidence because its interest “in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done.”

That being said, everyone knows that many prosecutors focus primarily on winning their case against the defendant by any means possible. For this reason, your defense team cannot sit back and wait for the government to disclose this exculpatory evidence. Instead, the defense must make a formal request for this information, and in some cases, even motion for a hearing to ensure full and honest disclosure.

If you are facing criminal charges and want to know how the Brady case may affect your situation, call a Fresno criminal defense attorney from Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense lawyer for help. To schedule a free and confidential consultation of your case, contact us today at (559) 443-7442.

Understanding the Brady Case

Brady was a murder case in the state of Maryland, in which overwhelming evidence pointed to the defendant, John Leo Brady. Faced with a seemingly hopeless situation, the defense admitted guilt, and focused on avoiding the death penalty at sentencing. Despite the defense’s efforts, Brady was sentenced to death.

While awaiting execution, Brady learned that the prosecutor had failed to disclose a statement by Charles Boblit, his co-conspirator, that effectively ruled him out as the one who committed the actual murder. Brady appealed his conviction, arguing that the prosecutor’s failure to disclose the exculpatory evidence was a violation of his right to due process. If the jury had heard this evidence, he reasoned, they would have acquitted him. The Supreme Court agreed – in part. The Court overturned the death sentence, but did not grant a new trial because Brady had admitted to being guilty of murder.

What Do Prosecutors Need to Disclose Under Brady?

Prosecutors need to provide the defense with information that might:

  • Exonerate the defendant
  • Mitigate the seriousness of the offense
  • Provide the basis for a lessened punishment
  • Allow the defense to undermine the credibility of a witness against the defense>
  • Support any legally valid defense tactic, such as a claim of self-defense

This exculpatory evidence may come in many forms, including:

  • Communications between the prosecutor and the police, witnesses, or other relevant parties
  • Internal memos and notes regarding the case
  • 911 calls
  • Electronic records stored on devices or in the cloud
  • Social media accounts and data backups
  • Medical records, including psychiatric and clinical reports
  • Name, address, and notes regarding any witness that gave a statement to law enforcement or prosecutors
  • Any perks given to witnesses to motivate their cooperation

Prosecutors must do more than just turn over exonerating evidence that they already know about, they also have an affirmative duty to review all the information of the case to discover any evidence that works in the defense’s favor. In addition to reviewing information in their possession, the prosecutor must also look at the information stored with the law enforcement agency that investigated the case.

As you can imagine, the amount of evidence that prosecutors must produce in a given criminal case can be staggering. For this reason, prosecutors are specifically prohibited from dumping Brady material on the defense team right before the trial, so it can’t all be reviewed. Similarly, the prosecutor cannot combine Brady material with other documents provided to the defense team in the hopes it may go unnoticed.

How Can the Brady Case Help You? Contact a Fresno Defense Lawyer for Help

When you are facing criminal charges, you want to be sure that your defense team will take full advantage of the prosecution’s Brady disclosures. Your lawyer should file a motion listing all of the places the prosecutor should search. Not only does this help ensure that no area will be overlooked in the search for Brady material, it also alerts the prosecutor and the judge to the importance placed on this evidence. This, in turn, will highlight the prejudice resulting from any non-disclosure of evidence from the prosecutor.

Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer has extensive experience dealing with Brady disclosures in a variety of criminal cases. Often, this information may provide crucial evidence that results in an acquittal or case dismissal. If you are facing criminal charges, contact us today at (559) 443-7442 to schedule a free, initial evaluation of your case.

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