Martin & Kent, L.L.C. Martin & Kent, L.L.C.

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Prosecutors might not share evidence that aids defense

Prosecutors in Illinois and around the country have an obligation to share exculpatory evidence with defense counsel, ever since the U.S. Supreme Court 1963 ruling in Brady v. Maryland. Legal observers, however, claim that prosecutors tend to overlook information gathered during an investigation that might cast doubt upon the defendant. Examples of exculpatory evidence are a different person being selected from a lineup by a witness or failing to reveal that a witness has a motivation to lie.

In one case involving a defendant described as having dreadlocks during a robbery, the prosecutor did not disclose that a photograph taken of the defendant two days prior to the crime showed that the man had short hair without dreadlocks. The defense lawyer did not see the photograph until months after the man's conviction. Because of the withholding of exculpatory evidence, the court granted a new trial.

The Brady v. Maryland case established that prosecutors must reveal all pertinent information. Prosecutors, however, sometimes dodge the requirement by claiming that they were not aware of the evidence or did not consider it exculpatory. Although prosecutors face no penalties for these violations, they might be grounds for overturning convictions if later detected.

A person charged with a crime might want to have the representation from a criminal law attorney. Besides the Brady rule issues, there may be a variety of ways in which defense counsel could contest the allegations. For example, in a drug possession or trafficking case, the attorney could challenge the search that led to the seizure of the drugs as being made without probable cause and thus a violation of the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights.

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