People facing arrest or already in custody face a difficult circumstance. They will be fielding questions from police who use tactics that assume guilt of the person being questioned. They will be facing an overzealous prosecution looking to score a conviction and put another “dangerous criminal” behind bars. The terrifying feeling of being arrested accounts for many people admitting guilt even though there is no real evidence of such guilt.
Fortunately, the Texas Legislature passed the Michael Morton Act in 2014 that requires the prosecution to provide the defense with all police reports and witness statements regardless of if those police reports or such statements are material to the case. This makes the defense of an accused criminal more fair and balanced.
Brady v. Maryland
In 1963, the United States Supreme Court heard the case of Brady v. Maryland, which provided a landmark ruling for criminal trials. In that case, the Maryland prosecutor tried two men separately for the same murder. Those men were John Brady and Donald Boblit. They were accused of killing a man named William Brooks. Brady claimed that he was an accomplice to the crime because he stole Brooks’s car and planned to rob a bank. However, Brady claimed, Brady did not actually kill Brooks; instead, Boblit killed Brooks.
Boblit stood trial and the jury found him guilty of murder. Boblit provided a statement to the prosecutor that only he, not Brady, killed Brooks.
Brady stood trial separately from Boblit. During the discovery faze of the trial, the prosecutor did not provide the Brady defense team with the statement from Boblit. The same prosecutor later gained a conviction against Brady for murder of Brooks. The judge sentenced Brady to life in prison.
Later, it was discovered that the prosecution held back this critical information from Brady. The case was appealed and made its way to the United States Supreme Court. In the case, the Supreme Court reversed Brady’s conviction, reasoning that withholding such exculpatory evidence violated Brady’s due process rights under the US Constitution. The due process clause, according to the Supreme Court, requires all prosecutors to provide a defendant with all “material” exculpatory evidence.
As a result of this ruling, criminal defendants have the right to “Brady” disclosures. Colloquially, cops who are dishonest are referred to as “Brady” cops.
In 1987, a trial court found Michael Morton guilty of murder. The prosecution claimed that Morton killed his wife in 1986. Morton claimed innocence and that he had nothing to do with his wife’s murder. In 2011, he was released from prison due to DNA samples that demonstrated that he could not have been the killer. The killer was later identified as Mark Norwood.
As a result of the Morton case, governor Rick Perry signed the Michael Morton Act into law that goes farther than the Supreme Court’s requirement in Brady and requires the prosecution to supply a defendant with all information related to arrests and witness statements, regardless whether such statements are “material.”
Accused of a crime? Contact the crimimal defense firm of Christopher Abel.
(image courtesy of Javier Villaraco)