This Article addresses the intersection of the rule of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 3.8. Brady requires prosecutors to automatically disclose materially exculpatory evidence in the government’s possession to the defense. ABA Model Rule 3.8 requires a prosecutor in a criminal case “to make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense.” The ABA issued a formal opinion in 2009 which concluded that the prosecutor’s ethical duty under 3.8 is broader in scope than the constitutional requirements under Brady. ABA Comm’n on Ethics & Prof’s Responsibility, Formal Op. 09-454, 1 (2009). Essentially, Brady requires a determination that the evidence would likely produce a different outcome at trial (materiality), but the ethical rule requires disclosure without regard to the impact at trial. In short, Brady and Rule 3.8 impose different standards on prosecutors. The intersection of these principles leads to inefficient and sometimes unjust results. The Article briefly examines, state-by-state, how often and under what circumstances prosecutors face disciplinary action for failure to disclose information and California's state law imposing felony charges on prosecutors for withholding evidence. The Article draws attention to the national conversation and concern centered on prosecutorial misconduct and highlights a number of elected prosecutors who are making headlines for withholding exculpatory evidence. The Article advocates for a revision to Model Rule 3.8 (and its state equivalents) to alleviate ambiguity related to the prosecutor’s discovery obligations and to conform to constitutional requirements. It further supports current initiatives by certain states to incorporate open file discovery and develop independent “prosecution integrity units.”
CU Commons Citation
Nagzger, Jodi, "Leveling Felony Charges for Withholding Evidence" (2018). Faculty Scholarship. 143.