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  • Writer's pictureBrian Foley

Does the prosecutor have to give a defendant evidence in Texas?

The prosecutors have to provide an opportunity to a defendant to review records and for an attorney they have to provide copies. This is true because of the Michael Morton Act. The Michael Morton Act refers to Section 39.14 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The act is named after Michael Morton, a man who was wrongfully convicted of his wife's murder in 1987 and later exonerated by DNA evidence. The Michael Morton Act was enacted in 2013 to address issues related to the disclosure of evidence in criminal cases.

Section 39.14 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure outlines the requirements for the disclosure of evidence by the prosecution to the defense. Here are some key provisions of the Michael Morton Act:

  1. Timely Disclosure: The prosecution is required to disclose to the defense any evidence that is favorable to the accused and material to guilt, punishment, or witness credibility. This disclosure must be made as soon as practicable and no later than 30 days before trial or any other proceeding.

  2. Duty to Investigate and Disclose: The act imposes a duty on the prosecution to make reasonable efforts to discover and disclose all evidence within their possession or control that is relevant to the case.

  3. Exculpatory and Impeachment Evidence: The act includes both exculpatory evidence (favorable to the accused's innocence) and impeachment evidence (information that could undermine the credibility of a witness) within the scope of required disclosure.

  4. Continuing Duty to Disclose: The act emphasizes that the prosecution has an ongoing duty to disclose any newly discovered or obtained evidence that is favorable and material to the defense.

The Michael Morton Act aims to prevent wrongful convictions by ensuring that all relevant evidence is disclosed to the defense. It seeks to promote fairness, transparency, and the protection of defendants' rights in criminal proceedings in Texas.

The prosecution doesn't just have a statutory duty to give evidence to a defense attorney or provide an opportunity for a defendant to review evidence. A prosecutor has an affirmative duty to provide evidence that he knows makes it more likely the defendant will NOT be convicted. This is due to the case of Brady v. Maryland.

Brady v. Maryland is a landmark United States Supreme Court case that established the prosecution's obligation to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense in criminal cases. The case was decided in 1963.

In Brady v. Maryland, the defendant, John Brady, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in Maryland. During the trial, Brady's co-defendant confessed to committing the murder alone, which contradicted Brady's own statement. However, the prosecution failed to disclose this information to the defense.

The Supreme Court held that the prosecution's suppression of evidence favorable to the accused violated Brady's constitutional rights. The Court determined that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires the prosecution to disclose material exculpatory evidence to the defense, even if the defense does not request it.

The Court established the "Brady rule," which requires prosecutors to provide the defense with any evidence that is favorable to the accused and material to guilt or punishment. This obligation extends not only to evidence directly in the possession of the prosecution but also to evidence in the possession of other governmental agencies involved in the investigation.

Brady v. Maryland played a significant role in ensuring fairness and due process in criminal trials by obligating prosecutors to disclose evidence that could potentially undermine the defendant's guilt or impact the sentencing. The case has had a lasting impact on criminal procedure and continues to be cited and applied in courts across the United States.

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