Washington, DC (March 15, 2012) – Leading U.S. Senators today introduced bipartisan legislation to bring about sensible discovery reform in criminal prosecutions. The bill is entitled the "Fairness in Disclosure of Evidence Act of 2012." Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Senator Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii) are the lead sponsors who introduced the legislation, which can be found here.
In America, if you are accused of a crime, you have the constitutional right to all information in the government's possession that is favorable to your case. That was the ruling nearly fifty years ago in the U.S. Supreme Court decision Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).
But as NACDL President Lisa Monet Wayne explained, "The duty to provide favorable evidence has often been misunderstood or ignored. Even well-intentioned prosecutors lack the clear statutory guidance necessary to ensure the full and prompt disclosure to the defense of favorable evidence. That lack of disclosure contributes to unjust and wrongful prosecutions and convictions. This legislation fixes that problem," adding "The 'Fairness in Disclosure of Evidence Act of 2012' provides clear and meaningful standards governing the prosecution's duty to disclose any and all evidence that could help the accused defend her case. Its passage would represent a giant step forward in improving the fairness and accuracy of our criminal justice system." Today's legislation will empower prosecutors across the country, providing them with clear standards aimed at ensuring compliance with their Brady obligations.
At a Capitol Hill news conference this afternoon reflecting the broad-based support for the legislation, Sen. Murkowski, who was accompanied by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, spoke about the case of the late Sen. Ted Stevens and the need for reform and uniform standard, saying that "Instead of justice being blind, in this case justice was blindly ignored." Rob Cary, a member of NACDL's White Collar Crime Committee and counsel to the late Sen. Stevens, spoke about the value this legislation would bring if enacted, "No amount of reform can guarantee that prosecutors will not lie and cheat as they did in his case, but this legislation today would go a long way towards making it much less likely that it happens in the future." Following Mr. Cary's remarks, NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer explained that "A criminal prosecution is the most awesome use of government power – short of warfare. It is not a game. It is not hunt. It is not sport. It's about justice and fairness. And the Fairness in Disclosure Act will make that principle the law of the land." And Michael Macleod-Ball, Chief of Staff of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, articulated the ACLU's position on the bill, "We think this bill supports the principle that justice demands and depends on fairness," adding that it "is intended to help ensure that our criminal courts mete out justice and not merely convictions."
In addition to NACDL, the legislation introduced today is supported by the American Bar Association (ABA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Constitution Project, and the Institute for Legal Reform at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
News outlets across the nation have reported on this critically important issue, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, The Hill, Alaska Dispatch, Houston Chronicle, and the Austin American-Statesman, among many others, with some editorial boards having clearly called for reform in this area.
NACDL has worked for years seeking sensible discovery reform in the context of criminal prosecutions. A link to NACDL's video "America Needs Sensible Discovery Reform," as well as a wealth of materials on the subject, can be found at www.nacdl.org/discoveryreform.
LIVE WEBCAST WITH STEVENS' COUNSEL TOMORROW
Tomorrow (Friday, March 16) at 2 p.m. ET, NACDL will hold a free, live webcast interview with Stevens' attorney Robert M. Cary, of Williams & Connolly LLP, who will discuss the ramifications of the case and the investigation, and the future of federal discovery reform. Complete information about the webcast will be available later today at www.nacdl.org.
A Defender’s Guide to Federal Evidence: A Trial Practice Handbook for Criminal Defense Attorneys
This Guide to Federal Evidence is the only federal evidence handbook written exclusively for criminal defense lawyers. The Guide analyzes each Federal Rule of Evidence and outlines the main evidentiary issues that confront criminal defense lawyers. It also summarizes countless defense favorable cases and provides tips on how to avoid common evidentiary pitfalls. The Guide contains multiple user-friendly flowcharts aimed at helping the criminal defense lawyer tackle evidence problems. A Defender’s Guide to Federal Evidence is an indispensable tool in preparing a case for trial.
Modern Digital Evidence & Technologies in Criminal Cases
Modern cases need modern defenses, and modern lawyers can't practice with an outdated playbook. This program is a contemporary training that identifies emerging technologies and digital evidence encountered in today's criminal cases and arms you with the tools necessary to combat expert witnesses, prosecutorial overreach, and an uneducated judge and jury. This comprehensive CLE program covers both general aspects of new technologies as well as practical courtroom application and legal challenges to the use of these new technologies.
Top Shelf DUI Defenses: The Law, The Science, The Techniques (2021)
If you are serious about being an effective DUI defense advocate, or if you’re considering adding DUI defenses to your portfolio, you need to know the latest scientific and legal strategies to optimize your success at trial. Learn from the best-of-the-best in the field in this unique CLE Program, updated for 2021.
Defending Modern Drug Cases (2021)
From challenging the arrest and seizure to picking a jury and cross-examining police officers, defense attorneys handling drug cases must be able to construct a defense that will increase the chances of the client getting a positive result for your client.
Effective motion practice, juror selection, and storytelling have never been more important. This seminar will introduce defense counsel to techniques that have been used at recent drug trials to rebut specific claims and overcome the emotion created in today’s criminal legal system.
Ivan Dominguez, Deputy Director of Public Affairs & Communications, (202) 465-7662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.