Pro Se Chicago's Weblog

November 18, 2008

Dismissal due to Discovery Violations


DISMISSAL DUE TO DISCOVERY VIOLATIONS/DUE PROCESS GROUNDS

 

The duties to disclose and preserve impeachment/exculpatory evidence are grounded in the due process right to a fair trial. Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419, 434 (1995); United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 678 (1985); United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 at 87 (1963) . Thus, the withholding or destruction of evidence violates a criminal defendant’s constitutional rights only if, as a result of the withholding or destruction of evidence the criminal defendant is denied a fair trial. Bagley, 473 U.S. at 678.

In People v. Walker, 257 Ill.App.3d 332, 628 N.E.2d 971 (1st Dist. 3d Div.
 1993) the court found that: “When police destroy material evidence, defendant’s clothing where he was  claiming misidentification … defendant’s due process rights violated and not an abuse of judicial discretion to dismiss the indictment.”

In People v. Madison, 264 Ill.App. 481, 637 N.E.2d 1074 (1st Dist., 4th Div.
 1994) the court found that: “Police destruction of evidence, heroin prior to trial, requires dismissal.”

            In Arizona v. Youngblood, 488 U.S. 51, 102 L. Ed. 2d 281, 109 S. Ct. 333 (1988), the court held that police did not deny the defendant due process by inadvertently destroying evidence that might have aided him.

      In People v. Camp, 352 Ill. App. 3d 257, 815 N.E.2d 980 (2d Dist. 2004) the court

discussed bad faith and its relationship to destruction of evidence and the issue of whether the evidence had only speculative value or was essential to the case.

“We have applied Newberry to uphold dismissals on due process grounds where the State destroyed evidence that was essential or outcome determinative. In People v. Crowder, 323 Ill. App. 3d 710, 753 N.E.2d 1165, 257 Ill. Dec. 539 (2001), the defendant was charged with two weapons offenses. After receiving a discovery request for the gun on which the charges were based, the State lost the gun. The trial court dismissed the charges. We affirmed, observing that the key issue was whether the gun was actually a firearm and not, e.g., a toy or inoperable replica. Crowder, 323 Ill. App. 3d at 712. Thus, the gun was essential to the case, and the defendant had no realistic hope of exonerating himself unless his experts could examine it. Crowder, 323 Ill. App. 3d at 712; see also People v. Coleman, 307 Ill. App. 3d 930, 934, 718 N.E.2d 1074, 241 Ill. Dec. 220 (1999) (dismissal proper after State inadvertently lost or destroyed alleged controlled substance that defendant had sought in discovery [in a timely fashion, even in the absence of bad faith].” People v. Camp, 352 Ill. App. 3d 257, 815 N.E.2d 980 (2d Dist. 2004)

 

“The court distinguished Arizona v. Youngblood, 488 U.S. 51, 102 L. Ed. 2d 281, 109 S. Ct. 333 (1988), which held that police did not deny the defendant due process by inadvertently destroying evidence that might have aided him. The Newberry court observed first that, in Youngblood, the Court required a showing of bad faith because the evidence that was destroyed had no more than speculative value to either the State or the defendant. Newberry, 166 Ill. 2d at 315; see Youngblood, 488 U.S. at 58, 102 L. Ed. 2d at 289, 109 S. Ct. at 337. The court observed second that in the case before it, unlike in Youngblood, the evidence was destroyed after the defendant had requested it in discovery. Thus, the State had been on notice that it needed to preserve the evidence. Newberry, 166 Ill. 2d at 317.”  People v. Camp, 352 Ill. App. 3d 257, 815 N.E.2d 980 (2d Dist. 2004)

 

“[I]n Newberry, the police seized what appeared to be cocaine from the defendant. After the substance tested negative, the defendant was charged with possessing a look-alike substance. However, a second drug test was positive. The State then indicted the defendant for possessing cocaine and several closely related offenses and dismissed the look-alike substance charge. After the defendant filed a general discovery request, he learned that the police had mistakenly destroyed the alleged cocaine. On the defendant’s motion, the trial court dismissed the indictments. Newberry, 166 Ill. 2d at 312-13.

The supreme court affirmed the trial court’s decision. The court held that, even absent bad faith, trying the defendant would deny him due process because the destroyed evidence was “essential to and determinative of the outcome of the case.” Newberry, 166 Ill. 2d at 315. That was because the defendant could not be convicted of the possession charges without proof of the content of the substance and, conversely, could not hope to exonerate himself without a chance to have his own experts examine the substance. Newberry, 166 Ill. 2d at 315.” People v. Camp, 352 Ill. App. 3d 257, 815 N.E.2d 980 (2d Dist. 2004)

 

“Aside from relying on due process, the supreme court upheld the dismissal of the charge as a proper sanction for the State’s discovery violation. …[U]nder Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 415(g)(i), a trial court may impose appropriate sanctions where the State fails to meet its discovery obligations, even absent bad faith. Newberry, 166 Ill. 2d at 317-18. Because the evidence that was destroyed was “pivotal,  the court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the charge. Newberry, 166 Ill. 2d at 318.” People v. Camp, 352 Ill. App. 3d 257, 815 N.E.2d 980 (2d Dist. 2004)

 

            Courts have ruled that if the police destroy evidence, “even absent bad faith” that is “essential and determinative of the outcome of the case” then the Defendant would be denied due process, as the defendant “could not hope to exonerate himself without a chance to have his own experts examine the substance [evidence forming basis of case].”  People v. Camp, 352 Ill. App. 3d 257, 261, 815 N.E.2d 980, 984 (2d Dist. 2004)

The court in Camp (id.) reasoned that if the charges were dependent on the destroyed evidence then the defendant would be deprived of due process if convicted. Therefore, they concluded that the case must be dismissed under such circumstances.

The trial court in Camp (id.) suggested that when the destroyed evidence is not essential or outcome determinative, the court has the power to impose lesser sanctions than dismissal.

“[T]he court could impose a sanction short of dismissal, such as instructing the jury that it could “take the disappearance of evidence in a manner disadvantageous to the prosecution.” People v. Camp, 352 Ill. App. 3d 257, 815 N.E.2d 980 (2d Dist. 2004)

 

 “This is primarily a question for the trial court, which has broad discretion to impose sanctions that are proportionate to the magnitude of the discovery violation. Newberry, 166 Ill. 2d at 317-18; People v. Koutsakis, 255 Ill. App. 3d 306, 314, 627 N.E.2d 388, 194 Ill. Dec. 272 (1993)…. [T]he trial court may consider a variety of less drastic options [than dismissal]. These include instructing the jury that the absence of the videotape requires an inference that the tape’s contents are favorable to defendant. See Thorne v. Department of Public Safety, 774 P.2d 1326, 1331-32 (Alaska 1989) (imposing similar remedy on remand to hearing officer in DUI case). On remand, the trial court is to consider the appropriate sanction under Rule 415(g)(i) for the State’s discovery violation.” People v. Camp, 352 Ill. App. 3d 257, 815 N.E.2d 980 (2d Dist. 2004)

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