Miami Evidence Favorable to the Accused Attorney
If the police (or agents) or the prosecutor is aware of any materially favorable evidence to the accused, such evidence must be provided to the defense prior to trial. This rule was enunciated in the landmark United States Supreme Court case of Brady v. Maryland because police and prosecutors were holding back evidence which was material and relevant and potentially favorable to defendants. For example, inconsistent statements by a prosecution witness must be disclosed to the defense. Often, prosecution witnesses are interviewed by police and then by prosecutors. It is not uncommon for the witness to provide conflicting stories. Very often, their statements change as they learn what police and prosecutors want them to say. So, the United States Supreme Court has made it absolutely clear that prosecutors in state and federal court must turn over such favorable evidence, i.e., all statements, to the defendant.
In criminal cases, it is common for the prosecutors’ witnesses, many of whom are admitted criminals, to either have received or have been promised to receive leniency – meaning a reduced sentence – or other benefits from the prosecutor if they testify against someone else. Prosecutors are notorious for giving out great benefits to their witnesses. If the defense were to do some of the things that prosecutors do regularly to elicit testimony, the defense attorney would be indicted for obstruction of justice, or worse. For example, prosecutors, police and agents actually pay their witnesses. Or, they promise not to charge their witnesses (or their children or their spouses) with certain crimes. That is one reason why criminal trials, especially federal criminal trials, are so unfair and always favor the prosecution – in spite of the “presumption of innocence.”
So-called Brady evidence is rarely provided to the defense and is often discovered after a trial. We’ve all seen the commonplace news reports of innocent people who were convicted of crimes, sentenced to lengthy prison terms and even death, later for it to be discovered that prosecutors withheld favorable evidence that might well have changed the outcome of the case. A prosecutor’s zeal to win their case, coupled with a lack of ethics, is what usually motivates a prosecutor not to provide the favorable evidence that they are constitutionally required to give the defense.
All witnesses, including a defendant (if he or she chooses to testify on his or her own behalf) put their credibility on the line when they take the witness stand. So, it is important for the defense to have any favorable evidence for the defendant available to them to be used during the cross examination of witnesses. A jury is entitled to know the facts and the promises and the benefits and anything else that might motivate a prosecution witness to give testimony.
Sometimes, prosecutors threatens their own witnesses to ensure that testimony goes as planned. Such threats must be disclosed to the defense, but rarely are.
While it is perfectly proper for prosecutors and defense lawyers to prepare their witnesses, it is improper for a witness, if asked, to fail to disclose meetings with the attorney to prepare their testimony. This happens more than you might think, and prosecutors sometimes fail to immediately correct the record, as is their responsibility. A discussion of Brady material could easily fill a book. This website is not intended to be a primer on criminal law and procedure, but I wrote it to alert you to some important issues that present themselves in virtually every criminal case.
If you are charged with a crime or facing trial, you should alert your lawyer to issues that may cause your lawyer to make a formal, specific request for Brady materials.