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A New York Prosecutor’s Duty to Provide Evidence to the Defense

In New York criminal cases, the prosecution is under a duty to provide certain evidence to the defendant and his attorney, irrespective of whether the prosecutor intends to use the evidence against the defendant. Importantly, the duty attaches to any evidence that may establish innocence or otherwise be favorable to the Defendant. This concept, first discussed by the United States Supreme Court in the landmark case Brady v. Maryland, has since been expanded to cover any evidence that is in the hands of not just of the prosecution but also of the police.  The material is commonly referred to by Criminal Lawyers as “Brady Material”.

FilesA recent case illustrates just how seriously courts take the prosecution’s duty to disclose evidence to the defense. Indeed, the court noted that, although the defendant’s argument was not necessarily raised at the appropriate time, the issue was so important that the court ruled on the issue anyway.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was charged with several crimes related to the assault of a minor. Prior to his arrest, and before the police knew where the defendant was, they “pinged” a cell phone that had been used by the minor earlier in the day (by “pinging” a phone, police are able to get a general idea of where the phone is). The police were able to locate the defendant through the cell phone.

At a suppression hearing, the police officer who had pinged the phone testified that the phone belonged to the minor. Thus, since the phone did not belong to the defendant, the court determined that the defendant did not have standing to challenge the police officer’s conduct. However, the defendant later found out that the officer had previously testified that the phone belonged to the defendant. The defendant also found out that the minor had testified in a grand jury proceeding that the only phone used by either the defendant or the minor belonged to the defendant.

The defendant filed a motion asking the court to hold a hearing regarding the prosecution’s withholding of this evidence, which was admittedly in its possession at the time of trial. The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed.

On appeal, the court ordered that the lower court should have conducted a hearing because the defendant presented credible evidence that the prosecution withheld important evidence from the defense. The court explained that the prosecution has a duty “not only to disclose exculpatory or impeaching evidence but also to correct the knowingly false or mistaken material testimony of a prosecution witness.” Here, the court held that the testimony of both the police officer as well as the minor seemed to conflict with that of the police officer during the suppression hearing, and that fact should have been made known to the defense.

Have You Been Charged with a New York Crime?

If you have recently been charged with assault or a similar crime in New York City or the surrounding area, you should reach out to one of the dedicated New York assault defense attorneys at the law firm of Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we pride ourselves on providing high-quality legal representation to those charged with serious offenses. Through diligent preparation and zealous advocacy, we do everything we can to ensure that our clients’ lives are affected as little as possible by the criminal charges they face. To learn more about how we can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation today.

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