The reported collapse of the Dominique Strauss Kahn rape case highlights an important principle in criminal procedure that few prosecutors take seriously but that has experienced criminal defense lawyers tearing their hair out. Prosecutors MUST turn over evidence that the defendant is not the perpetrator of the crime to the defense. This disclosure must be done early and is a continuing obligation on the part of the prosecutor’s office. The material that must be turned over is commonly referred to as Brady Material and is generally counter-intuitive in our adversarial system of justice.
Prosecutors often do not take this obligation seriously even though cases have been dismissed based upon the failure to turn over such material and prosecutors may be personally sanctioned for their failure to turn over Brady Material. For example, in Matter of Stuart, 22 A.D.3d 131 (2nd Dept. 2003) a prosecutor was suspended for deceiving the Court about the existence of Brady material and the attorney Disciplinary Rules quite specifically require prosecutors to make such disclosures. See DR 7-103.
The term Brady Material is quite broad and requires disclosure of a wide array of information. This information can include: