What Does It Mean When A Prosecutor Commits A Brady Violation?

What Does It Mean When A Prosecutor Commits A Brady Violation?

After a criminal conviction, you might find new evidence. This new evidence might help prove your innocence. Sometimes, this new evidence comes from people who weren’t involved in your case before. Other times, though, you might learn about evidence the prosecutor had but did not turn over. If the prosecutor did not give you evidence that would have helped you, they committed a Brady violation. A Brady violation can have a huge impact on your case.

What is a Brady violation?

The term “Brady violation” comes from a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The term comes from a 1963 case called Brady v. Maryland. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a prosecutor must disclose evidence that would help the defendant.

A “Brady violation” happens when prosecutors don’t turn over evidence that would help you. If they have evidence that would be helpful to a defendant and don’t turn it over, they commit a Brady violation.

Court cases after Brady v. Maryland have extended this rule even more. Now, courts make prosecutors turn over this evidence even if the defense does not request it. And they also make the prosecutor search their files for this evidence.

And arguments like this can help you win your case, according to a University of Michigan report. According to that report, prosecutors commit Brady violations a lot. They do it so often that they are the leading cause of overturned convictions in the United States.

What is a Brady Violation?
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What kind of evidence must be provided to the defense?

Prosecutors commit a Brady violation each time they don’t turn over “exculpatory” evidence. In general, this means that they must turn over all evidence that would help the defendant.

This could include many different types of evidence. But common examples include evidence showing that

  • you were not at the scene of the crime,
  • someone else committed the crime,
  • a prosecution witness might be lying and
  • a lower sentence is appropriate.

Some examples have even made national headlines. Right now, death-row prisoner Rodney Reed is raising an alleged Brady violation. A jury convicted Reed of sexually assaulting and murdering a woman in 1996.

During the trial, prosecutors claimed that Reed and the woman did not know each other. But prosecutors had recently turned over letters showing a relationship between the two. According to Reed’s attorneys, prosecutors did not turn over this evidence at the time.

When can you raise a Brady violation?

One of the most important parts of raising a Brady violation is that you can usually do it at any time. If a prosecutor does not provide you with evidence before trial, you can raise it with the judge. The judge can then penalize the prosecutor. If a Brady violation shows up during trial, you can move for dismissal. Even if the judge won’t grant dismissal, they may grant a mistrial.

But you can raise this argument after a trial, too. There are a few different ways that you can do this. It could be with a motion for a new trial in the court where your trial happened. You could also raise the argument in your appeal. You can also raise the argument in other filings like a petition for writ of habeas corpus.

The Takeaway:

Most convictions that get overturned are because of Brady violations. A Brady violation happens when the prosecutor does not give you with evidence they have that would help your case. This violates your constitutional rights. You can raise a Brady violation at almost any time in your case.

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