EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Judge in Freddie Gray Case Finds Brady Violation, Says Baltimore's #2 Prosecutor Doesn't Understand Discovery Rules

Earlier today, Judge Barry Williams found that the prosecution in the Caesar Goodson case violated Brady v. Maryland by failing "to disclose to the defense that they had engaged in a lengthy interview with one Donta Allen." Goodson was the van driver in the Freddie Gray case; he's been charged with murder, manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment in connection with Gray's death. Allen was another criminal suspect in the van.

According to an article on Judge Williams's decision:

In his original statement to police in April last year, Allen said he heard loud banging coming from Gray's side of the vehicle. He gave a similar statement in a separate interview with prosecutors a month later, but the state never turned it over as evidence to defense attorneys. Judge Williams found today that prosecutors committed a so-called Brady Violation because Allen's May 2015 statement was deemed exculpatory evidence and it's the state's duty to divulge this information to the defense.

“The state doesn’t get to decide whether or not to disclose information,” defense attorney Andrew Graham said. “The state sat on it for over a year. It’s not up to them to make that decision. Even a small piece of evidence may make a difference. It’s not fair to the defense.”

He explained that had Allen’s lawyer, who was present during the second interview, not stepped forward, the defense would not have known about it at all. According to Graham, Allen’s lawyer didn’t come forward sooner because he felt his obligation was to maintain confidentiality to his client.

According to the defense, this undisclosed statement is "consistent with the theory that Gray’s injuries were of his own making, and not the result of any police misconduct." 

Here is a copy of the defense's motion, which also contains a transcript of Allen's undisclosed statement. The defense argued that the Brady violation was significant enough that the case should be dismissed, but Judge Williams instead gave the State until Monday to turn over any other evidence that it might be withholding. That said, Judge Williams was reportedly "visibly angry" with the State. Judge Williams "flat out told [Michael] Schatzow, No 2 prosecutor in Baltimore he did not understand discovery rules." According to Judge Williams, "I'm not saying you did anything nefarious. I'm saying you don't know what exculpatory means."

-CM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2016/06/earlier-today-judge-barry-williams-found-that-the-prosecution-in-thecaesar-goodson-case-violated-brady-v-maryland-by-failin.html

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Comments

Thanks for posting about this, Prof. Miller. Do you happen to know whether the other exhibits to the defense motion are available online? I’d be curious to see them – especially Mr. Rubin’s letter.

Also – and I apologize for going slightly off topic – do you have any thoughts on the State’s somewhat surprising revelation that they are relying on a “rough ride” theory in their case against Goodson? If prosecutors think Goodson intentionally drove erratically in order to injure Gray, and they can prove it, doesn’t that change the picture with regard to the other officers? Even assuming the other cops (and not just Goodson) had a duty to belt Gray in, were their negligent omissions really the proximate cause of Gray’s death, given Goodson’s alleged actions? Would it have been foreseeable to them that if they failed to put Gray in a seat belt, the van driver would intentionally bounce Gray around and kill him?

Posted by: Adam | Jun 10, 2016 8:01:10 AM

astonishing. The prosecution won't even do something when it is a cop that is the defendant. I like the judge's comment that the prosecutor was basically ignorant

Posted by: Linnette Garber | Jun 10, 2016 12:06:28 PM

I'm shocked, just shocked, that a Baltimore prosecutor doesn't understand discovery rules.

Posted by: Michael | Jun 11, 2016 11:49:56 AM

What are the implications for this later? If Goodson is convicted can this violation be used for his appeal?

Posted by: Jess | Jun 13, 2016 4:25:48 AM

I'm going to preface my comment by saying I am not very familiar with this case, but I find it a bit suspicious that when a police officer is on trial and a Brady violation is found that is possibly exculpatory the judge is up in arms and "visibly angry". However when someone like Adnan's lawyer puts forth a Brady violation there's a lot of hemming and hawing over if it is exculpatory and its relevance is questioned. Colin, am I taking this out of context in regards to Adnan's recent PCR motions? It also strikes me as a possible "jail house snitch" situation where perhaps detained Allen was pressured/incentivized to make the statement inferring Gray had done the damage to himself. I know I'm going to sound tinfoil hat here, but perhaps the prosecution was in cahoots with the cops and withheld Allen's cajoled statement on purpose so that later on Goodson could get out on a Brady violation. After everything I've heard about Baltimore's justice system there really isn't much I would put past them.

Posted by: Megz | Jun 27, 2016 11:43:52 PM

The only way this stops is to remove prosecutorial immunity and allow them and LE to be held criminally and civilly liable for these violations.

Posted by: T M Bond | Jul 5, 2016 4:04:42 PM

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