Monday, February 11, 2019
Supreme Court of New Jersey Finds a Brady Violation Based on Late Disclosure of Nineteen Pieces of Exculpatory Evidence
Pursuant to the Supreme Court's opinion in Brady v. Maryland, the State has an affirmative duty under the Due Process Clause to timely disclose material exculpatory evidence. The typical opinion involving a Brady violation involves the State's complete failure to disclose exculpatory evidence, with the main question being that evidence was material, i.e, whether it undermines our confidence in the jury's verdict. In this sense, the recent opinion of the Supreme Court of New Jersey in State v. Brown, 2019 WL 418076 (N.J. 2019), is a bit of an outlier because the State did disclose exculpatory evidence to the accused...but not until a week had passed in his murder trial.
In Brown, William Brown was charged with murder, and the State did not disclose nineteen pieces of exculpatory evidence until after the first week of his trial. One piece of evidence
contained a report of a canine search completed the night of the murder. The report of the canine search detailed a path followed by the dogs that contradicted testimony already given by State witnesses.
Another piece of evidence "was the first evidential support defendants received for a theory of third-party guilt." Now, typically, the court would have determined whether insertion of this evidence at trial likely would have changed the outcome. But here, the withheld evidence was introduced, but not until midway through the trial. Nonetheless, the court found that this was prejudicial and grounds for a Brady violation because
Withholding the above reports deprived defense counsel of the opportunity to cite the evidence of third-party guilt in their openings and to cross-examine the four officers who had already testified against defendants about evidence acquired at the crime scene and referred to in the withheld documents.