Prosecution’s Duty To Disclose, Part 2

It was previously discussed that a District Attorney has various duties under the Constitution to disclose favorable evidence in a Torrance criminal prosecution. that obligation is mandatory and self executing. In addition to that duty, there also exists a duty to search out information that may exonerate a criminal defendant. Prosecutor’s duty to search: In every criminal prosecution there exists an entity that the courts call the “prosecution team” and “includes both investigative and prosecutorial personnel.” The prosecutor has a duty to search and inquire within the “prosecution team” to locate exculpatory evidence. “[T]he individual prosecutor has a duty to learn of any favorable evidence known to the others acting on the government’s behalf in the case, including the police.” This includes police agencies located in other jurisdictions and outside administrative agencies which participated in the investigation. The discovery statutes underscore the concept of a prosecution team by authorizing the defendant to demand discovery from the prosecuting attorney, the law enforcement agencies that prepared the case and any other person or agency the prosecuting attorney or investigating agency employed.

State agency not part of “prosecution team”: Under Brady, the prosecutor’s duty extends to evidence “known to the others acting on the government’s behalf … [b]ut the prosecution cannot reasonably be held responsible for evidence in the possession of all government agencies, including those not involved in the investigation or prosecution of the case …. [I]nformation possessed by an agency that has no connection to the investigation or prosecution of the criminal charge against the defendant is not possessed by the prosecution team, and the prosecutor does not have a duty to search for or to disclose such material.” In one particularly noteworthy case the court found that defendant’s jailors in the Sheriff’s Department were not involved in the prosecution and not an agency subject to the duty of disclosure).

“Although the prosecution may not withhold favorable and material evidence from the defense, neither does it have the duty to conduct the defendant’s investigation for him. If the material evidence is in a defendant’s possession or is available to a defendant through the exercise of due diligence, then … the defendant has all that is necessary to ensure a fair trial ….”.

When a state agency is not part of the “prosecution team” because it is not involved in the investigation of the charges against the defendant, the prosecutor has no duty to disclose exculpatory evidence in its possession. Defendant must issue a subpoena duces tecum for the materials under the control of the agency and establish their materiality to the defense, in camera, if necessary.

About thetorranceattorney

Matthew Ruff is a Torrance criminal defense attorney located near the 405 freeway on Crenshaw Blvd. Focusing on DUI and serious criminal cases for over twenty five years. In addition to criminal cases, Matthew also defends clients at the DMV regarding license suspension hearings stemming from drunk driving arrests.
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