Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Notes Destroyed, Conviction Reversed

The New Jersey Supreme Court has held that a state prosecutor's office violated its post-indictment discovery obligations when its investigator destroyed his notes of a two-hour pre-interview of a defendant.

Further, the trial court "abused its discretion in denying [the] defendant's request for a charge that would have allowed the jury to draw an adverse inference from the destruction of the interview notes more than a year after the return of the indictment."

The court here affirmed the Appellate Division's reversal of the conviction of the defendant for the murder of his wife:

The danger of [the] investigator destroying his contemporaneous notes should be self-evident. The words in the interview report were filtered through an investigator who, understandably, has developed a distinct view of the case. The potential for unconscious, innocent self-editing in transferring wors, sentence fragments, or full sentences into a final report is a real possibility. So is the potential for human error in the transposition of words from notes into a report. By destroying his notes, [the investigator] made himself the sole judge of what was actually contained in the notes. If there were differences between the notes and the final report, [the defendant] had a right to present them to the jury.

(Mike Frisch)


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