Discovery rules that leave defendants in the dark about the evidence against them undermine fairness and due process and increase the risk of wrongful convictions. Criminal discovery can be divided into two categories: (1) disclosure of so-called “exculpatory evidence” that is constitutionally required under the Supreme Court’s 1963 Brady opinion and (2) disclosure that is required by statute or court rule. There is great variation among jurisdictions regarding the amount of discovery required by statute/rule and even the Brady decision.
The federal system and most states allow prosecutors to withhold evidence needed by the defense. To encourage reforms, NACDL has adopted two model bills: one prescribing open-file discovery and another clarifying the Brady rule by requiring the disclosure of all favorable evidence.
Legislation & Policy
- State Legislative Victories
- Federal Reform Legislation
- Reform Proposals
- Brady-Giglio Guide for Prosecutors, American College of Trial Lawyers Federal Criminal Procedure Committee (2021)
- Pending State Legislation
- Priority Federal Legislation
- Prosecutorial Misconduct
- Department of Justice Policies
See NACDL Comments to the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules on proposed amendments to pretrial expert disclosure (February 2021)
- Reports & Research
- The Champion Brady Issue
- Interview with Senator Stevens' Counsel
- NACDL's "America Needs Sensible Discovery Reform" Webcast
Cross-Examination Trial Pack
NACDL’s new Cross-Examination Trial Pack includes three of our best-selling Cross-Examination resources: “Damage Control: Situational Cross-Examination Techniques Trial Guide”, "Ultimate Cross 2.0: Audio Recordings & Written Materials" and "Sample Cross-Examination Questions."
This masterful collection of cross-examination resources provide countless tips, techniques and strategies for a variety of criminal case-specific scenarios. Learn to cross-examine a variety of trial witnesses!
Death Investigation: Forensic Pathology in the Courtroom and Cause & Manner of Death (2022)
This unique program provides criminal defense lawyers with an accurate and clear overview of forensic pathology and the countless factors to consider in a death investigation and will methodically explain what happens during an autopsy to determine cause and manner of death.
You'll uncover the different types of medicolegal death investigations, what to request from your MDI expert, quality benchmarks for accreditation and certification, guidelines and standards, common terminology and frequently asked questions.
The Psychology of Persuasion & Storytelling for Criminal Defense Lawyers
This Trial Resource Guide is a masterful collection of practical tips, techniques and strategies focused solely on using the arts and sciences of persuasion to improve your storytelling skills at trial.
You'll learn how to master the ability to communicate with juries, deliver powerful openings and closings, perform convincing cross-examinations, use effective courtroom choreography and non-verbal communication, identify and develop the optimal theme and theory for your case, and offer compelling arguments during mitigation and sentencing.
Zealous Advocacy in Sexual Assault & Child Victims Cases (2022)
Defending charges of sexual assault and child abuse can be daunting — but with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be.
Every year, NACDL identifies the hottest topics and most pressing issues when defending these cases, and brings-in nationally-renowned lawyers and experts to help you prepare for battle. This year’s 13th Annual Defending Sex Cases training program is our best yet; packed with topics and speakers you won’t want to miss!
- Shifting the ‘Burden of the Defense’ in White Collar Conspiracy Prosecutions
- Trying to Stem the Tide: Closing the Door on Social Media Evidence
Criminal Procedure: The Due Process Protection Act: How Rule 5(f) Came to Be
and Where Do We Go from Here?
Rule 5(f)(1) requires judges to inform prosecutors of their obligation to produce exculpatory information and provides that courts may hold prosecutors accountable if they do not comply with a Brady order. Rule 5(f)(2) requires that each circuit council promulgate a Model Order that a district court “may use as it determines is appropriate.”
NACDL Releases Model Order Pursuant to the Due Process Protections Act
The amended Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 5 requires that in all criminal proceedings, at the first scheduled court date at which both the prosecutor and defense counsel are present, the judge must issue an order confirming the prosecutor’s disclosure obligations under Brady v. Maryland. Defense lawyers should consider NACDL’s Model Standing Order on the Prosecution’s Brady Obligations.
News Release ~ 04/01/2019
Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar Welcomes Criminal Justice Reforms Adopted by the State of New York -- Washington, DC (Apr. 1, 2019) – On Sunday, March 31, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Senate and Assembly reached agreement concerning multiple, significant pretrial criminal justice reforms as part of the state’s FY 2020 budget package. These changes will take effect in 2020. The reforms concern speedy access to trial, discovery in criminal cases, and bail and pretrial release.
News Release ~ 09/06/2018
Supreme Court of Virginia Overhauls Criminal Discovery Rules; Major Victory for Broad, Bipartisan Coalition of Criminal Justice Reformers – Washington, DC (Sept. 6, 2018) – Late yesterday, Sept. 5, 2018, the Supreme Court of Virginia issued amended criminal discovery rules set to take effect July 1, 2019, marking the first such overhaul in decades. Specifically, the Court issued amended Rules 3A:11 (Discovery and Inspection) and 3A:12 (Subpoena) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia.
News Release ~ 01/17/2018
Department of Justice Successfully Blocks Public Access to Its Federal Criminal Discovery Blue Book – Washington, D.C. (Jan. 17, 2018) – Earlier today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed notice of its decision not to appeal the release of an extremely limited portion of its Federal Criminal Discovery Blue Book. The portion of the Blue Book that the Court found was not work product was a tiny fraction – what amounts to not much more than a handful of pages – out of a manual that contains at least 265 pages.
- "Oregon public defense system halts payments to prosecutors for discovery materials,"
- "Brooklyn Judge Curbs Defendants’ Rights To Challenge DAs On Evidence Sharing,"
- "Digital Data Dumps and the ‘Brady’ Rule,"