The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is considering a rule that would specify what evidence should be disclosed by prosecutors to defense attorneys and when, according to an editorial published Sunday by the Washington Post.
It is a defendant’s constitutional right to be notified by the prosecution of any evidence that is favorable or exculpatory, the editorial notes, and the failure of prosecutors to do so has led to many wrongful convictions. Adopting the rule would be a step in the right direction for wrongful conviction reform.
The proposal is inspired by the 2008 corruption prosecution of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, in which two prosecutors were suspended without pay for failing to turn over evidence that could have aided in his defense.
The presiding judge, Emmet G. Sullivan, later sought a rule change for all federal courts and when that failed, the rule was aimed at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. A committee made up of of judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys spent a year drafting the proposal.
Read the full editorial here.