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Pro-Defendant Protections: The Brady Rule Against Prosecutorial Misconduct

The criminal justice system is often described as an adversarial system. This is because the purpose of our criminal justice system is to allow any defendant who has been arrested and charged for commission of a crime the right to have a day in court and present information that sways the jury into believing that he or she is innocent. On the other side, as part of the adversarial system, is the prosecution or the state, which ensures that evidence is put forward to show that, more likely than not, the defendant has committed the crime. Once all pertinent and admissible evidence is evaluated by the jury, it is up to them to determine which side they are more inclined to believe.

Purpose of Pro-Defendant Protections in the Adversarial System

Because in the criminal adversarial system a defendant has the possibility of losing his life, liberty, and property (all which are fundamental rights in our system), there are certain protections put into place to ensure that defendants are not arbitrarily imprisoned or lose one of their fundamental rights as a result of the criminal proceedings. With so much on the line for criminal defendants during criminal proceedings, there are rules of evidence and rules of procedure to help defendants put on a fair fight against the state/prosecution.

The Issue Surrounding Prosecutorial Misconduct

However, there is very little “personally” on the line for prosecutors to deter them from poor behavior – which has been at the center of much debate about how our adversarial system is currently running. In other words, when a prosecutor withholds evidence, lies or cheats to win a criminal case, what punishment or deterrence is appropriate to remedy this prosecutorial wrongdoing? Currently, there is very little in place, and whatever remedies are available are limited and rarely applied.

The History of the Brady Rule

The Brady rule, which is based off of a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brady v. Maryland, is a pro-defendant protection which decrees that prosecutors are constitutionally obligated to provide to defendants and the court all evidence that could exculpate the defendant. This is because the government’s investigative powers are more likely to be extensive than a defendant’s. But no remedy was provided that would detail what to do if a prosecutor violated the Brady rule. Would the defendant receive a new trial? Would he or she be acquitted completely?

Redefining of the Brady Rule

In a later case in 1985, United States v. Bagley, the scope of the Brady rule was limited so that for a reversal of a conviction to be considered, the evidence that was suppressed due to prosecutorial misconduct had to be “exculpatory” and “material.” This requires that in order for the evidence to be considered “material,” the defendant would have to show that the trial’s outcome would have been different as a result of the evidence being present in the first place. Though this rule is still pro-defendant, it requires defendants to prove the prosecutorial misconduct with a higher standard.

The Brady Rule in Florida

In Florida, the Brady rule has been redefined to fit the needs of the Florida criminal justice system. Its standard requires that it is on the onus of the defendant to prove:

  1. the prosecution had favorable evidence which either was exculpatory or impeaching;
  2. the prosecution purposefully and willfully suppressed the evidence; and
  3. the evidence was material, and its absence was prejudicial to the defendant during trial.

Florida has already taken a step by amending its Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure in May 2014 to require that any attorney who practices law in a felony case must undergo a training in the ethical and legal obligations of the law of discovery and Brady responsibilities.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Pro-defendant protections are extremely important for balancing the adversarial system in favor of the defendant. An experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik understands the importance of pro-defendant protections and how best to apply them in advocating on your behalf. Contact the Law Offices of Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation.

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