Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Defense Discovery Revisited

In light of my recent post, "Trial by Ambush," here's a developing story about the inequities of discovery rules in Texas relating to the defense of citizens accused of crime. A quote from the February 12th edition of the Houston Chronicle:
The right of a defense attorney to use a copy machine to do his or her job shouldn't be a big deal.

But in Harris County, some prosecutors consider themselves generous if they allow a defense attorney a peek at the case file and the chance to copy down witness names and other vital information by hand.

"It's like this unwritten rule we've always had," says Kelly Siegler, a chief prosecutor and Republican candidate for district attorney.

Defense attorneys have complained about that unwritten rule for years.

"It's a blatant attempt to make the system unfair to us. It always has been," says Patrick McCann, president of the Harris County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. "And frankly, when you can hit a button and e-mail me a copy of the report, or fax me a copy of the report, there's no reason not to."

While Siegler notes that the law doesn't require prosecutors to allow copies, she says she finds the no-copy rule "silly" and plans to get rid of it if elected.

"I know how prepared I like to be going to trial, and I think if I was a defense lawyer, without having the offense report to go by, to study, to examine, it would be very difficult to be as prepared," Siegler says.
Well, there's a fine "how-do-you-do." Why does it take rocket science and an election in Harris County to figure out the system's unfair? Just start making us copies and give us access to the files. You never know. The system may just work better.

No comments: