Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Violation of Prosecutor's Duty to Disclose Favorable Defense Evidence: Penal Code Section 1054

Posted on: May 27, 2008 at 10:12 p.m.

L.A. criminal attorneys turn to Penal Code Section 1054 which requires that the prosecutors provide all reports, witness statements, physical evidence, videotapes, photographs, etc. By reviewing what the police has gathered as part of its investigation, the defense is able to be ready to contest the criminal charges. In turn, the defense may want to reinterview witnesses to determine how credible their observations were. The defense may also want retest DNA results, enhance videotape footage, test fingerprints, and do any other forensic investigation to ensure that nothing was missed in the way the case was investigated, so that there are no other suspects and that the forensic testing of evidence was consistent with established scientific principles.

In a recent decision, The California Supreme Court ordered a new penalty trial in the killing of an Eagle Rock convenience store clerk in the early 1980's. The basis for the ruling was the prosecution's failure to turn over favorable evidence to the defense. If evidence is not turned over, then the defense is not able to present it to the jury and thus the rightfulness of the conviction is subject to question. As to this 1982 case, the court held that the death sentence imposed on Adam Miranda for the 1980 killing was tainted because prosecutors, who blamed Miranda for another murder during the penalty phase of his 1982 trial, failed to turn over a letter to the defense in which another man claimed he committed that crime.

At trial, jurors convicted Miranda of the murder of the store clerk, Gary Black, and of assaulting Black

Tagged as: federal law and defense, motion to dismiss unlawful police search


Kristen Fischer on June 1, 2008 at 10 p.m. wrote:

An important thing I noticed from the mistake made by the prosecution is the vulnerability of trials. After the prosecution presented extensive evidence of Miranda

Kelsey Kernstine on June 1, 2008 at 1:59 a.m. wrote:

I am in favor with the California Supreme Court

Cassidy Preston on May 30, 2008 at 11:12 p.m. wrote:

I absolutely agree with the California Supreme Court's decision to order a new penalty trial for Adam Miranda. While the recently discovered letter does not affect the courts decision to convict Miranda for the murder of Gary Black, it almost surely would have played a role in the penalty imposed on Miranda. While the murder of Black certainly justifies imprisonment, it seems likely that Miranda's death penalty sentence was influenced by his being accused of the drug dealer's murder. Now that the this murder and Miranda's confession to it are being question in the light of the new evidence to the contrary, it is both a legal and moral imperative that the court reexamine the case to ensure Miranda is properly punished and not held accountable for a crime he did not commit. In fact, I find it troubling that the Judge Krauel failed to charge the prosecutors with willful misconduct when, as he said, the letter should have been turned over. It was the responsibility of the prosecution to ensure the defense was exposed to all relevant evidence so they could effectively cross-examine Saucedo and the prosecutions failure to do so appears to have led to the guilty plea for the Hosey murder.

Anna Andersen on May 29, 2008 at 1:34 p.m. wrote:

I think this is rather unfortunate because although the defendant clearly deserves to be punished for killing the store clerk, his punishment may have been harsher since the jury thought he also killed a the drug dealer over a $10 debt. The fact that a criminal can get away with a crime because the police or prosecution did not handle the evidence correctly is definitely not the most glamorous part of our legal system. However, I recognize the importance of protecting the people, and I think that letting a few guilty people go is better than convicting even one innocent person. Thats why I think that if an error arises after a case is closed, it is important to consider whether it might have changed the outcome of the case. If there is little reason to believe that it would have changed things then it should just be dismissed. Of course this is vague... In this case, there is no doubt that the defendant murdered a man. However, I don't support the death penalty, and I think it is possible that the murder of the drug dealer factored into the jury's decision to give this verdict. This really just leaves me conflicted...

Sally Derohanessian on May 29, 2008 at 12:10 p.m. wrote:

I agree with the Supreme Court's statement in that the letter would have altered the outcome of the case provided that it was revealed before or during the trial. It is plain and simple - all the facts and evidence that are or can be attained should appear in court for a fair trial. Otherwise, it seems as though the party concealing evidence is involved in suspicious activity in trying to willfully manipulate the outcome of the case. As we have seen in many cases, time always plays a critical role because it allows for new evidence that was not available during or after a trial to eventually appear. Fortunately, even the smallest piece of evidence often makes the difference between finding the accused as guilty or innocent. Therefore, concealing evidence purposely or even neglecting to retreave or inquire about what is available in the 'open file' detracts from the fairness that is to be presented in court for it to be ruled as an unbiased and rational case.

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