A study released this week by the Justice Project calls for a nationwide expansion in the sharing of evidence between prosecutors and defense attorneys before criminal trials. The study’s authors say that improving discovery (file sharing) procedures would prevent wrongful convictions by ensuring that exculpatory evidence is not withheld from defense attorneys.
Some states, including North Carolina, Florida, Colorado, New Jersey, and Arizona, have passed laws expanding discovery, but this week’s report calls for all states to make this reform a priority.
Edwin Colfax, the Justice Project’s Director of State Campaigns, wrote yesterday on the Texas Kaos blog that Texas is among the states most desperately in need of discovery reform.
Adequate discovery supports the bedrock constitutional principle that the accused are innocent until proven guilty. Expanding discovery prior to trial is a cost-effective way to ensure that the right people are being put behind bars as quickly as possible. Public safety is not served when innocent people are incarcerated and the guilty remain at large with the potential to commit more crimes.
Read the full blog post
. (Texas Kaos, 09/18/07)
Several wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing were caused, in part, by prosecutors withholding exculpatory evidence from defense attorneys. In the case of
, prosecutors had evidence before Brown’s trial suggesting that another man had committed the crime, but those documents were not given to defense attorneys.