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U.S. District Court Judge Praises New York Courts’ Efforts to Curb Prosecutorial Misconduct

By Innocence Staff

An op-ed in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan celebrated New York’s comprehensive new rule that makes New York the first in the nation to require all of its criminal trial judges to issue so-called “Brady orders” to all prosecutors in every case (named after the 1963 case of Brady v. Maryland).  As Judge Sullivan explains, the landmark administrative order is a critical step in ensuring that prosecutors across the state honor their legal and ethical obligations to turn over all evidence that is favorable to a defendant.

Judge Sullivan, who presided over the trial of former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens—which was marred by prosecutorial misconduct—is one of the prominent judges that has long issued his own individual Brady orders. But soon, as of January 2018, under the new order, all criminal court judges in New York will be mandated to do so.

As Sullivan explains in his op-ed, the purpose of the judge-issued Brady orders is, ultimately, to educate prosecutors on their legal and ethical obligations, to prevent wrongful convictions throughout the state and to provide a mechanism for sanctioning the small minority of prosecutors who deliberately conceal favorable evidence.

Earlier this month, New York’s Chief Administrative Judge issued an order directing all courts to issue “Brady” orders in criminal cases. The Innocence Project lobbied in support of the order, because judicial oversight of discovery was key in holding former Texas prosecutor Ken Anderson in criminal contempt for the misconduct that resulted in Innocence Project client Michael Morton wrongly serving 25 years for the murder of his wife before he was cleared by DNA evidence.

Sullivan wrote the following:

It’s one thing for prosecutors to know they are supposed to follow the law. But it’s far more likely actually to happen when a judge’s order tells them exactly what is expected, and what the consequences are for noncompliance. A Brady order also ensures that prosecutors who commit intentional misconduct can be held accountable. Often it takes years for a wrongly convicted defendant to discover that exculpatory evidence was withheld. By that time, the statute of limitations for bringing disciplinary or criminal charges against the prosecutor may have already expired. If a Brady order is in place, however, the prosecutor can be held in contempt of court or subjected to other judicial sanctions.

The full op-ed is available here with a WSJ subscription.

4 Comments

  1. dot adamo

    Yea this is good only if this they are willing to help people that are wrongfully convicted I’ve been trying to get somebody from the innocent project to help me but nobody wants to help

  2. Linda Kiker

    One small step for defendants. One huge step toward ending wrongful convictions where evidence is withheld. Great news. Hope this is the template for other courts everywhere.

  3. ROBERT HENRIKSEN

    i have a case in orange county NY .. they deliberately withheld my sons video evidence and 2 witnesses from testify or even being questioned by both the police and DA .. then legal aide walked out in mid trial in front of judge .because they saw what was happening… then the sgt tried to get me arrested as he walked off the stand getting caught in a lie the same SGT that framed my son .. i am trying to file a 440-10 motion for my son ..any help would be great .. they ruined his life … tried to get him killed in the process .. he still cant get over it and neither can we .. this is all part of an article i am writing about this indecent i would also like to be a spokes person.. i have been there for year fighting this corrupt system and have years of letters writing of everyone who chose to let it happen … i know you guys only deal in life and death cases … but the falsely accused are out here trying to make a life and living with false charges on them ..is just as bad a life….living it not being able to get a good a job, living with PTSD.. etc.. i witness this first hand

  4. Diana Jones

    I am going through the same thing with my son here in Freestone County Texas. Life without parole for a murder he did NOT commit. The Judge sides with dirty DA and dirty law. Law tampered with my deceased friend, I know because I am the one who found her when I went to visit her, law changed her clothes, body positions, planted a crisp brand new $100.00 bill in her hand that was never bent or folded. My son heard her screaming and tried to save her and life without parole is what he got for it. All law and Judges in every state need to be held accountable for their actions and deceit.
    We all need to be able to change the law for law getting away with murder.

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