When Prosecutors Hide Evidence from The Defense
Sept. 30, 2016
Prosecutors in Florida have a constitutional duty to inform defense attorneys about all exculpatory evidence in a case. Unfortunately, some prosecutors ignore this duty in an effort to better their odds of winning at trial. Doing so is both morally reprehensible and unethical.
When prosecutors withhold evidence from the defense, people who are innocent may end up being convicted for crimes they did not commit. While the evidence might be uncovered later on and the person is released from prison, the person will never be able to regain the time that he or she lost from his or her life.
It has been the law in the U.S. for prosecutors to disclose exculpatory and material evidence to the defense since 1963. Some still routinely violate this law, claiming that they didn’t know about the evidence or that they didn’t think that it was exculpatory. While people may lose their freedom and years from their lives because of these violations, the prosecutors that commit them have little to no repercussions for doing so. At a minimum, having information about how many times an individual prosecutor has committed these types of violations might stop them from continuing to do so if they believe that they are being watched.
Criminal defense attorneys may use private investigators to conduct their own investigations of their clients’ cases. This may help them to uncover evidence that has been hidden. It might also reveal that evidence has been covered up so that they can seek relief from the court through motions to compel discovery. A person who is facing criminal charges may want to talk to a criminal defense lawyer even if the person knows that he or she is innocent. It is an unfortunate fact that innocent people are sometimes convicted, and a lawyer may work to keep that from happening.