Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cooperating witnesses, snitches, rats and the states obligations...

Give us a break, I'm no lawyer nor do I pretend to be, so for the lawyers among you, if you see us laboring through legal mumbo jumbo, cut us some slack!

With all this talk lately on our blog regarding cooperating witnesses or defendants that have agreed to testify against other co defendants in exchange for leniency or even immunity from the state, one has to wonder, what obligations does the state have to notify the other defendants that such a deal exists?  Wonder no longer, welcome to Giglio v. United States, from the Wikipedia page...
Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court held that the prosecution's failure to inform the jury that a witness had been promised not to be prosecuted in exchange for his testimony was a failure to fulfill the duty to present all material evidence to the jury, and constituted a violation of due process, requiring a new trial. This is the case even if the failure to disclose was a matter of negligence and not intent. The case extended the Court's holding in Brady v. Maryland, requiring such agreements to be disclosed to defense counsel.[1] As a result of this case, the term Giglio material is sometimes used to refer to any information pertaining to deals that witnesses in a criminal case may have entered into with the government.[2]
There's that pesky due process stuff again!  Once again we find ourselves at the mercy of the state hoping they'll take the high road and disclose all "deals that witnesses in a criminal case may have entered into with the government" to defense counsel.  It only makes sense, doesn't it?

So what happens when a morally and ethically challenged prosecutor makes the mistake of not disclosing such evidence to the defense?  Could such a mistake have been made during the course of one of the mortgage fraud cases that we've discussed?  Imagine yourself charged with a crime, trying to defend yourself.  It's bad enough that you suspect that the prosecutor is hiding exculpatory evidence, it's bad enough that you know that the police have interviewed several witnesses who told them in no uncertain terms that you weren't involved in any wrong doing yet they still won't turn those interviews over to you, but now on top of everything else, you find out that one of the people that were charged along with you is not only cooperating but has also been given immunity!  To add insult to injury, the prosecutor whose made your life a living hell hasn't told you or your attorneys anything about such a deal!

I know we talked about prosecutors wanting an "Unfair Advantage" but this is fucking ridiculous.

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