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