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What Are Brady Violations and How Do They Affect Criminal Cases?

October 19, 2016 | Posted In Criminal Law

Unless you are a New Jersey defense attorney, chances are that you have never heard of a Brady violation.  A Brady violation refers to the United States Supreme Court case of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), which held that the prosecution in a criminal case must disclose any and all evidence demonstrating the defendant’s innocence or evidence that could assist in their defense.  Failure to do so is a violation of the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

A Brady violation occurs when:

  • Prosecution: State officials have evidence favorable to the defendant including information or materials that might mitigate a defendant’s sentence.
  • Suppression: The evidence is suppressed.
  • Material: The evidence is “material,” meaning that if the defendant had the evidence, the result would have been different.

A New Jersey prosecutor is required to permit a defendant to inspect different types of relevant materials as set forth in Rule 3:13-3(c) including:

  • Books, papers or other documents that belong to the defendant;
  • Records of statements or confessions;
  • Results or reports of physical or mental examinations or scientific tests;
  • Reports of the defendant’s prior convictions;
  • Books, papers or other documents in the possession of the prosecutor;
  • Names, addresses or other information regarding any person who has relevant information including information as to which individuals may be called as witnesses;
  • Statements in the control of the prosecution and information regarding any prior convictions of those individuals;
  • Police reports;
  • Names and other information regarding experts including copies of any reports.

Sanctions for Brady Violations

In 1995, the United States Supreme Court addressed many of the excuses used by prosecutors to avoid turning over materials in the case of Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419 (1995).  The case provides a list of items that must be turned over to a criminal defendant, including 1) inconsistent descriptions by different witnesses, 2) pending charges against any police informant, and 3) leads that the police did not follow.  Failure by the prosecution to turn over any such materials can constitute a Brady violation. 

The appropriate sanction for a Brady violation depends on the nature and extent of the suppressed evidence.  Appropriate sanctions vary for each case including:

  • A continuation of the case;
  • Ordering the government to turn over the evidence;
  • Jury instruction advising that the government withheld evidence until the eve or middle of the trial;
  • Preventing the government from presenting certain evidence;
  • Dismissal of the indictment ;
  • Request for a new trial in accordance with Rule 7:10-1.

A Brady violation may also mean that a civil rights violation occurred and that the defense may have a case against the police, prosecutor or any other government official that withheld evidence.

Contact HCK Today for Help

If you are arrested or charged with a crime, regardless of whether or not you believe that the government withheld information, it is important to speak to the experienced defense attorneys at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. to learn about the Brady requirements.  Our attorneys can review your case and confirm that everything is done to obtain all possible exculpatory information on your behalf. 

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