Prosecutors are vested with authority to bring criminal cases against defendants for violations of state law. The role of prosecutors is a role of public trust. Prosecutors are not permitted to bring charges if they do not have a good faith belief there is probable cause to move forward with criminal cases. In addition, more than five decades ago in a case called Brady v. Maryland, the United States Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors are required to turn over exculpatory evidence. The Brady decision held it is a violation of due process if a prosecutor withholds favorable material evidence from a defendant prior to a criminal trial.
Despite this long-standing rule (called the Brady rule), prosecutors in Clark County may not be abiding by the Supreme Court’s mandate- and may be violating the constitutional rights of defendants as a result. As the Review Journal Reports, Clark County prosecutors have been caught hiding substantial amounts of material evidence. This has left juries and judges to make decisions without all of the information available and it has resulted in a miscarriage of justice in cases where defendants could have avoided a guilty verdict if the prosecuted followed the rules.
Defendants need to be aware that prosecutors are sometimes more concerned with their conviction rates than with justice being done. Never assume you will get a fair trial when you are being accused of a crime- you need to fight for fairness with the help of an experienced Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer who knows the rules of civil procedure inside and out.
In Clark County, prosecutors have kept many different kinds of evidence secret from defendants, even though the Brady rule says they must provide this material information. This includes things like information about the criminal past of witnesses, denying that deals were made with criminal informants, and not disclosing that there were other suspects for the crime the defendant is on trial for.
Courts are complicit in allowing prosecutors to get away with this misconduct, and in fostering a culture of secrecy within the Clark County district attorney’s office. The chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals warns that the U.S. is seeing an “epidemic of Brady violations, in large part because it is so difficult for defendants to take action when prosecutors hide evidence. In order for a defendant to get a verdict overturned as a result of a prosecutor’s misconduct, the defendant and his attorney must find the hidden evidence before the deadline for appealing the verdict and also must show that the hidden evidence would have had an impact on the verdict if it had not been suppressed.
Even when defendants have been able to find out that prosecutors were not forthcoming, Nevada courts have done little to hold prosecutors accountable. In 12 cases over the years, Nevada judges have ruled that prosecutors hid evidence. However, in the majority of cases where hidden evidence was discovered, prosecutors did not face consequences for failure to follow the Brady rule. Further, prosecutors were punished in less than two percent of cases nationwide where misconduct was found.
As a defendant, you need to ensure that everything possible is done to find exculpatory evidence, especially since prosecutors are not providing the information they are required to by law. A Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer has a team of investigators and legal staff who can assist you in conducting the most thorough investigation possible into your case as you fight conviction. Call an attorney as soon as possible for assistance.