Wrongful Conviction Cases in California and Tricks District Attorneys Use
Prosecutors are bound by ethics and laws in their pursuit of justice in criminal cases. So when they overstep those rules, they essentially violate the fundamentals of fairness. One rule that prosecutors are bound by is the Brady Rule.This rule provides the foundation for a fair trial.
The name of the Brady Rule goes back to a case that almost wrongfully convicted a man and would have sent him to prison for 13 years. Thankfully, the man chose an experienced lawyer to represent him. The lawyer saw the prosecution’s legal violations and was able to protect him from a wrongful conviction. Here’s a look at what the Brady Rule is and how it applies in California criminal cases.
What is the Brady Rule?
Everyone must have access to a fair trial. Part of that rule requires that the prosecution turn over all evidence that could help the defense’s case.
The role of a prosecutor provides them access to information that a regular attorney might not have access to. This means that they could withhold evidence and information that could exonerate a person. But that would not be in the best interest of justice because it doesn’t give the defense the same access to evidence.
Favorable evidence is any evidence that helps the defense or hurts the prosecution’s case against the defendant. For example, the prosecution in a case cannot withhold information concerning the criminal background of a key witness in a case. This information can speak to the character of the witness and should be information the defense can present to the jury to call that witness into question.
The Court Case That Created the Brady Rule
The People v. Stewart is the case that created the Brady Rule. This is the case where a man almost lost 13 years of his life because the prosecution was not forthcoming with information that would harm their case.
In this case, the defendant was charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse. The sexual abuse was alleged to be against his younger cousin. In presenting their case, the prosecution called to the stand as a witness, one of the man’s other cousins who was also a minor. She testified that the defendant had also sexually abused her.
The prosecution in the case used the witness to show that the defendant had shown a pattern of sexual abuse. Both the testimony from the victim in the case and that of the witness had matching details, pointing to them being legitimate.
There was an important detail about the witness that the prosecution did not disclose. The key witness in this case had previously alleged that another cousin had also sexually abused her.
However, in that case, she later admitted that she had willingly consented to the sexual acts repeatedly over the course of three to four years. Her previous allegations matched those that she was making against the defendant in the People v. Stewart. The defense did not have access to this information at the time because it was in juvenile records, which are confidential.
By the time the truth about this important witness came out, Stewart had been sentenced to 13 years in prison. Had the defense team known about the previous allegations this witness had made, they could have cross-examined her and called into question the validity of such claims.
Spotting Tricks Defense Attorneys Use to Convict
After several years working as a criminal defense attorney, our office knows the tactics that prosecutors use to convict a defendant, even when the evidence doesn’t support their claims. Our office will bring this information to light to protect you from such questionable tactics. We’re relentless in our pursuit of a fair trial and protection of your rights.