Articles Posted in Discovery

Amici are former federal prosecutors and senior Justice Department and government officials who have dedicated many years of service to the criminal justice system and have a continuing interest in preserving the fair and effective administration of criminal trials.2 As such, amici understand the duty of prosecutors “to seek justice within the bounds of the law, not merely to convict.” ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: Prosecution and Defense Function, Standard 3-1.2(c) (4th ed. 2015). Amici write to emphasize that fundamental to vindicating this responsibility is making timely disclosure of all material and favorable evidence to the defense.

As the Supreme Court recognized in Brady v. Maryland, the failure to disclose favorable evidence “violates due process … irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.” 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963); see also United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 709 (1974) (“The very integrity of the judicial system and public confidence in the system depend on full disclosure of all the facts, within the framework of the rules of evidence.”). While this affirmative duty is above and beyond the demands of the “pure adversary model,” United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 675 n.6 (1985), it is grounded in an understanding of the prosecutor’s “‘special role … in the search for truth in criminal trial,’” Banks v. Dretke, 540 U.S. 668, 696 (2004). From their years of combined experience, amici appreciate the challenging judgment calls prosecutors face on a daily basis, but they also deeply believe that fundamental fairness and public confidence in our justice system relies on prosecutors taking their disclosure obligations seriously and fulfilling this duty capaciously.

So begins the amicus pleading in support of the petitioner in Georgiou v. United States.

Under the “old” Article 32, the right to call and examine witnesses and to obtain production (discovery) of evidence was pretty robust.

All Services except the Air Force and Coast Guard routinely recorded the audio of the hearing.  That audio could then be transcribed into a verbatim transcript.  The benefit to the government was that in the event a witness became unavailable at trial, there existed a “deposition,” or at least something akin to a deposition which could be used in evidence at trial in the extreme case.

The Article 32 testimony as substitute for the actual appearance of the witness is guided by United States v. Norris, 16 U.S.C.M.A. 574, 37 C.M.R. 194 (to be admissible, must be verbatim); United States v. Burrow, 16 U.S.C.M.A. 94, 36 C.M.R. 250; Pointer v. Texas, 380 U.S. 400 (1965)(testimony might be received only if “taken at a full-fledged hearing at which petitioner had been represented by counsel who had been given a complete and adequate opportunity to cross-examine.” Id., at page 407.

This was a reason I always wondered why the Air Force and Coast Guard didn’t record the 32.  Although the cynical thought was that it prevented the defense from having a record to use for impeachment.

But here is the question for the current Article 32 pretrial hearing.  Can the hearing be properly used as a substitute for a deposition, and testimony used in evidence should a witness become unavailable for trial.  I think the answer should be NO.  Largely I think this is because of the intent to avoid discovery and an appropriate amount of cross-examination of witnesses who did attend.  There is now almost no discovery and the ability to cross-examine witnesses who do appear is more limited.  Thus there is a strong constitutional argument that trying to use a transcript of Article 32 testimony violates the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause.

While the likelihood of needing prior testimony may not be a frequent event, there may come another day where this collateral impact of changing the Article 32 may come back to haunt.  On balance the intent to adversely affect the ability of the defense to prepare for and defend against a charge has been accomplished-but at a cost to a potential prosecution.

I posted a while back about the Texas prosecutor arrested and being prosecuted for Brady violations.

Here is a link from Prof. Berman about

The investigative journalism website ProPublica has now published another installment in its notable series of pieces concerning the problems of prosecutorial misconduct.  The series is titled "Out of Order: When Prosecutors Cross the Line," and here are links to all the pieces from the beginning:

Many years ago we sought to improve our counsel performance at NLSO Norfolk with developing checklists, protocols, and a PQS system.  It seemed to work.

Now here is an article, Darryl K. Brown, Defense Counsel, Trial Judges, and Evidence Protocols, Brown, Darryl K., Defense Counsel, Trial Judges, and Evidence Protocols, Texas Tech Law Review, Vol. 45, No. 1, 2012; Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper, 2012-70. Available at SSRN:  The author

argues that constitutional criminal adjudication provisions are fruitfully viewed not primarily as defendant rights but as procedural components that, when employed, maximize the odds that adversarial adjudication will succeed in its various goals, notably accurate judgments. On this view, the state has an interest in how those procedural mechanisms, especially regarding fact investigation and evidence gathering, are invoked or implemented. Deficient attorney performance, on this view, can be taken as a problem of the state’s adversarial adjudication process, for which public officials – notably judges, whose judgments depend on that process – should assume greater responsibility. The essay briefly sketches how judicial responsibility for the integrity of criminal judgments is minimized in various Sixth Amendment doctrines and aspects of adversarial practice. Then, instead of looking to Sixth Amendment doctrine to enforce minimal standards for attorney performance, the essay suggests that judges could improve routine adversarial process through modest steps to more closely supervise attorneys’ performance without infringing their professional discretion or adversarial role. One such step involves use of protocols, or checklists, through which judges would have attorneys confirm that they have performed some of their tasks essential to adversarial adjudication, such as fact investigation, before the court would rely on their performance to reach a judgment, whether through plea bargaining or trial.

Huuum, why not a pretrial conference on discovery and physical evidence.

The new Mil. R. Evid. may not apply to any offense committed prior to it’s effective date?  Is there an argument that application to an offense prior to the effective date violates the ex-post facto clause.  See Calder v. Bull, 100 U.S. 1 (1798).

Article I, section 9 of the United States Constitution states in relevant part that “[n]o Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed,” and, in its opinion in Calder v. Bull, the Supreme Court recognized four types of laws that cannot be applied retroactively consistent with this Ex Post Facto Clause:

1st. Every law that makes an action done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when done, criminal; and punishes such action. 2d. Every law that aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was, when committed. 3d. Every law that changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed. 4th. Every law that alters the legal rules of evidence, and receives less, or different, testimony, than the law required at the time of the commission of the offence, in order to convict the offender.

Here is Prof. Colin Miller TG’s blog on the retroactive application of FRE 413-414.

Well, I use Wikipedia for research.  But, I use it “in some limited situations . . . for getting a sense of a term’s common usage."  Fire Insurance Exchange v. Oltman & Blackner, Case No. 201004262-CA, 2012 UT App 230 (Utah App. 2012)(discussing the uses and reliability of Wikipedia as a source of information).

See e.g., United States v. Jones, ARMY 20090401 (A. Ct. Crim. App. December 14, 2011),   Appellant was accused of effectively “Equating MOS trainees to permanent party – grandmothers to toads”  The court cites to Wikipedia for the proposition that the expression “WIKIPEDIA, (a Serbian expression akin to the familiar "apples to oranges" idiom in English) (last visited Dec. 1, 2011); in United States v. Magalhaes, NMCCA 200602480 (N-M Ct. Crim. App. February 21, 2008), the court cites to Wikipedia for the definition of the Pythagorean Theorem; in United States v. Ober, ACCA again resorts to Wikipedia for discussion of Kazza one of the early “programs” used to exchange many things over the internet, but for our purposes CP (which was also done in State v. Ballard, 2012-NMCA-043, ¶ 19 n.1, 276 P.3d 976 (N.M. Ct. App. 2012)(citing Wikipedia to define "peer-to-peer file sharing").). 

But the Fire Insurance Exchange court cites to these several cases and there is an interesting discussion of Wikipedia.

Citing Wikipedia is as controversial as it is common.2 Some courts approve it, others condemn it. Compare United States v. Lawson, 677 F.3d 629, 650 (4th Cir. 2012) (stating that the court is "troubled by Wikipedia’s lack of reliability"), Bing Shun Li v. Holder, 400 Fed. App’x 854, 857-58 (5th Cir. 2010) (expressing "disapproval of the [immigration judge]’s reliance on Wikipedia and [warning] against any improper reliance on it or similarly unreliable internet sources in the future"), Badasa v. Mukasey, 540 F.3d 909, 910-11 (8th Cir. 2008) (noting Wikipedia’s acknowledgment that, "at any given moment," an entry "could be in the middle of a large edit or it could have been recently vandalized" (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)), and In re Marriage of Lamoure, 132 Cal. Rptr. 3d 1, 15 (Cal. Ct. App. 2011) ("We do not consider Wikipedia a sufficiently reliable source" for defining the term "noncustodial."), with Prude v. Clarke, 675 F.3d 732, 734 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing Wikipedia entry, in the context of an Eighth Amendment challenge, for the proposition that an anal fissure "is no fun at all"), United States v. Brown, 669 F.3d 10, 18 & n.12 (1st Cir. 2012) (citing Wikipedia for its definition of "sovereign citizen movement," one of a criminal defendant’s "atypical legal beliefs"), Murdock v. Astrue, 458 Fed. App’x 702, 705 n.3 (10th Cir. 2012) (citing Wikipedia for "some examples of block lengths from cities in this country"), and State v. Ballard, 2012-NMCA-043, ¶ 19 n.1, 276 P.3d 976 (N.M. Ct. App. 2012)(citing Wikipedia to define "peer-to-peer file sharing").

I have for some time been challenging the limitation on the defense opportunity to get depositions.

The usual response is that a deposition isn’t for “good cause” because, according to the Discussion under R.C.M. 704, the witness “will be available at trial.”  I argue that R.C.M. 704 and the discussion are not procedure authorized by the President consistent with his Article 36, UCMJ, powers, but are substantive.  If it is substance, then it is beyond the Article 36 power.

Here is an interesting article on the federal rules which may help with my argument, we’ll see.

The Criminal Rules Enabling Act, Max Minzner,  University of New Mexico School of Law
July 10, 2012
46 University of Richmond Law Review 1047 (2012)

The Rules Enabling Act authorizes the Supreme Court to prescribe “general rules of practice and procedure” as long as those rules do not “abridge, enlarge or modify” any substantive right. The Supreme Court has frequently considered the effect of these restrictions on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In order to avoid Enabling Act concerns, the Court has imposed limiting constructions on a number of the Civil Rules. A significant academic literature has grown up analyzing and criticizing the Court’s approach in these cases, frequently arguing for more expansive interpretations of the REA that would place more significant constraints on the Civil Rules. The impact of these statutory restrictions on the Rules of Criminal Procedure, though, has been virtually unstudied. Neither the Supreme Court nor academics have focused on the Criminal Rules when interpreting the REA.
This article argues that this approach is a mistake. Even under the most constrained view of the Rules Enabling Act, several Criminal Rules are potentially invalid because they are insufficiently procedural. After outlining the current doctrine on the Enabling Act and the Civil Rules, I provide a framework for applying the Act to the Criminal Rules and examine the constraints of the REA with respect to four Rules of Criminal Procedure that face validity challenges. In addition to identifying these Enabling Act issues, this article proposes potential interpretations of these Rules that can reduce their substantive effect by either reading the Rules narrowly or grounding the doctrines in federal common law, rather the Enabling Act.