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Will prosecutors always turn over exculpatory evidence?

Prosecutors and criminal investigators may push a suspect for answers by saying “help me help you.” While this may sound enticing and reassuring, the famous line from “Jerry Maguire” may be anything but helpful. After all, prosecutors seek evidence to help gain a conviction.

However, prosecutors are also bound to produce exculpatory evidence, either during discovery or before discovery responses are due to the defense. Exculpatory evidence is information or documents that can satisfy a defense or disprove an element of a crime. The principle requiring prosecutors to turn over exculpatory evidence is based on the U.S. Supreme Court case, Brady v. Maryland.

Even though prosecutors are supposed to turn over evidence that could potentially weaken their case or exonerate the accused, the defense may not always receive the evidence they are legally entitled to.

Such was the case with seven defendants accused of rioting during President Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. According to a report, federal prosecutors were not forthcoming about video evidence that apparently would have weakened their case. A federal judge pressed prosecutors about the availability of the video and found that they did not offer any reasonable explanation about why they did not inform the court about additional copies of the video.

As such, the judge dismissed the conspiracy to riot charges with prejudice, meaning that prosecutors cannot later reinstate the charges.

The story is another example of the importance of having an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend against criminal charges. If you have questions about the use of evidence in your case, an skilled lawyer can advise you.

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