There have been countless problems over the years involving the police withholding potentially exculpatory material in criminal cases. In 1963, in a case entitled Brady v. Maryland, Brady and another man were convicted of murder, and both were sentenced to death. After the trial, it was learned that the other defendant had previously confessed to the murder, a fact that was not provided to defense counsel, and was withheld by the prosecution at trial. The United States Supreme Court ruled that the prosecution had an obligation to turn over to the defense any evidence that might exonerate the defendant, including, in that case, the confession of the co-defendant. Failure to do so violated Brady’s due process rights. Since that time, there have been a host of what are commonly referred to as “Brady violations,” which have occurred at the federal, state, and local level.
Prior Police Misconduct
The Brady rule applies not only to statements, fingerprint, DNA results, and other evidence, it also applies to issues involving the police officers in a case – disreputable officers previously found to have been guilty of misconduct, including lying, dishonesty and similar behavior. As a result, most counties and states began – very slowly – to track what are known as “Brady list” cops, those whose prior actions would tend to cast doubt on their truthfulness in criminal cases. The problem, at least in Arizona, is that the Brady list system is broken. Here are some of the issues:
- There is minimal oversight on local Brady lists.There is no official statewide Brady list.
- There is no official standard on what conduct requires inclusion on a Brady list.
- Placing an officer on a Brady list is often either delayed, or not done at all.
- Brady list officers do not have to be reported to the APOSTB, which licenses officers in Arizona.
We could go on. What all this means is that mandatory disclosure of exculpatory material involving a police officer may be meaningless if the officer, notwithstanding prior misconduct or dishonesty, is not included in the Brady list.
Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004