The Case: North Carolina v. Absher (N.C. App. 2010)
Comprehensive review of a case coming from Wilkes County North Carolina, where the State of North Carolina through the Wilkes County Office of the District Attorney and the Attorney General of North Carolina challenged the findings of fact and conclusions of law by the Honorable Carl R. Fox in the Superior Court of Wilkes County.
Reference Cases & Statutory Authority
15A-954(a)(4), North Carolina v. Williams, 362 N.C. 628 (2008); Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419 (1995); State v. Hill, 277 N.C. 547 (1971). Court of Appeals specific rejection of: Arizona v. Youngblood, 488 U.S. 51 (1988).
The Battle: Whether Defendant is entitled to "Discovery" in a District Court setting AND the implic
North Carolina law is frankly complicated on this point. . .and more than a bit disjunctive. The State of North Carolina, through prosecutors, very much relies on the general tenant that "discovery" is not a formal, required process. The argument rests in stating, "the rules of pre-trial discovery in criminal cases only apply to cases within the original jurisdiction of the Superior Court. . .There are no rules requiring pre-trial discovery for cases within the original jurisdiction of the District Court." Although formally true, at least from a statutory standpoint, that does not serve as a bar from methods of obtaining materials through other constitutional or statutory basis. The bigger questions remain: Why is that the law in the State of North Carolina? Is that fair? Does that make sense? Or does it make a mockery of "justice" in North Carolina?
The important quotes:
"However, the form is irrelevant; as the U.S. Supreme Court has explained, a Brady claim may arise 'where the Government failed to accede to a defense request for disclosure of some specific kind of exculpatory evidence,' or 'where the Government failed to volunteer exculpatory evidence never requested, or requested only in a general way.'"
When a defendant makes numerous requests for specific items of evidence that were favorable to him and material to his defense, but the State failed to provide the evidence, destroyed it, and then stated it it could not be produced, a flagrant violation of the defendant's constitutional rights has occurred.
The State failed to provide the complete video, instead creating a modified copy that excluded twenty-four minutes and seventeen seconds of the original video. The State destroyed the original video, which rendered producing the original video impossible.
Brady v. Maryland
The suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.
The State's affirmative duty to disclose exculpatory evidence or impeachment evidence exists even when a defendant does not act under the rules of discovery.
Additional resources provided by the author
The North Carolina Court of Appeals - October 5, 2010 written opinion.
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