A trial in New York in September raised the issue of the Brady rule. This rule is based on the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brady v. Maryland, and it requires a prosecutor who uncovers evidence that is material and favorable to the defense to present that evidence to the defense. The New York case involved a man accused of murdering a sixth-grader who was his ex-girlfriend’s son. Once the trial was underway, it was revealed that a witness had seen another ex-boyfriend entering the house right before the murder.
Unfortunately, prosecutors often fail to share evidence even though in some cases, the discovery of evidence withheld by the prosecution may result in a new trial being ordered. Prosecutors rarely face career repercussions for this omission and may simply say that they did not think the evidence was important.
However, the evidence does not have to prove a person’s innocence. For example, in one case, a man was convicted of robbery, but the prosecutor working on the appeal found a mug shot of the man in the previous prosecutor’s file from two days before the incident. The man had short hair, but the description of the man who committed the robbery was someone with dreadlocks. The previous prosecutor argued that the man could have worn a disguise, but a new trial was ordered because the evidence was found to be favorable and material.
People who are facing criminal charges may want to work with an attorney both in the event that their rights are violated in a manner like this and for a defense support in court or in working out a plea negotiation with the prosecutor. Other ways people’s rights may be violated are during a search or when they are being detained.