Category Archives: Discovery

State v. Dingman: Trial Court Erred in Denying Defendant’s Discovery Requests

Good news.

Division II gave an excellent decision regarding the violation of a defendant’s right to review evidence.

In State v. Dingman, The State seized Mr. Dingman’s computers while investigating him for theft and money laundering.  The State created mirror image copies of the computers’ hard drives using a program called EnCase.  Dingman asked for direct access to his computer.  The Court refused, and instead ordered copies be provided using Encase, a program the defense neither had not knew how to use.

Applying court rules/procedures, the Court held the State is obligated to disclose all tangible objects in its possession which were obtained from or belonged to the defendant.  The computer hard drives were tangible objects obtained from the defendant.  Defense counsel should be allowed to examine the hard drives.  It was errer not to give the defense access to the hard drives.

My Opinion?  Great decision.  The defendant should ALWAYS have access to materials the prosecutor wants to use at trial.  Indeed, it’s a blatant violation of a defendant’s Constitutional rights to deny access.  Providing evidence to the other side is also, quite simply, a professional courtesy.

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/index.cfm?fa=opinions.showOpinion&filename=347199MAJ

State v. Brooks: WA Court Rightfully Dismisses Criminal Charges Because Prosecution Withheld Evidence

A victory.

WA Court of Appeals dismissed a criminal case due to prosecutorial mismanagement and withholding  of evidence.

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/index.cfm?fa=opinions.showOpinion&filename=361710MAJ

My opinion?  It’s about time!  The prosecutors, God bless ’em, usually have the upper hand with judges.   Typically, judges won’t sanction prosecutors or dismiss cases due to prosecutorial misconduct, mismanagement, or withholding of evidence (trust me, I’ve tried).

This opinion opens the door for judges to exercise more discretion in dismissing poorly managed cases.  In this case, the prosecutor withheld a a 60-page victim statement from the defense until the day of trial.   Unbelievable!  Imagine this: your attorney has geared up for trial.  They agonizingly prepped the case from start to finish.  Attorney has their theme, theory, motions in limine, opening statement, closing statement, voir dire questions, direct exam questions, and cross exam questions fully prepared before entering the court.  All of the sudden, prosecutor plops a huge pamphlet of papers in front of defense attorney’s face.  “Sorry you have no time to review this new statement, but go ahead and cross examine my witness on this.”  Unbelievable.  We have no idea what the statement contains.  If admitted to evidence, this unread statement could, by itself, utterly throw your case theory out the window.

The Court of Appeals has boldly decided these “Hide the Ball” shenanigens are going to get cases dismissed.  That governmental mismanagement materially affects a defendant’s right to a fair trial.  Good.  I understand that prosecutors work hard.  Their caseloads are huge.  But hey, let’s be real, people’s lives and liberty are at stake.  Constitutional rights are at risk.  Consequently, cases should be dismissed when poorly handled and/or mismanaged.