Sunday, June 08, 2008

Murder Conviction Reversed Because of Discovery Violations

In People v Davis , 2008 NY Slip Op 05131 the Fourth Department reversed a murder conviction because it found that the prosecutor's repeated discovery violations and the court's denial of a brief adjournment to allow the defendant to review the materials when eventually provide prejudiced the defendant.

Here, despite defendant's demand therefor, the People failed until the day of jury election to disclose, inter alia,a 12-page firearm analysis with photographs from the Monroe County Public Safety Laboratory. The court denied defendant's request for a 48-hour adjournment to review the analysis and photographs.Following the testimony of the People's first witness, the prosecutor provided defense counsel with a report concerning blood recovered from the clothing of defendant and the victim. The court denied defendant's request for an adjournment for the remainder of the afternoon to review the report. On the second day of trial, the prosecutor disclosed to defendant a report from the Medical Examiner concerning blood collected the day after the victim's death. Defendant moved for a mistrial based on the late disclosure of evidence and, although the court referred to the conduct of the People as "very disturbing," it reserved decision on the motion. The following day, the court permitted the People to introduce five undisclosed autopsy photographs of the victim depicting the gunshot wounds to his body....We conclude under the circumstances of this case that the People's conduct resulted in substantial prejudice to defendant. Here, as noted, defendant presented a justification defense (see Penal Law § 35.15 [2] [a]), and we conclude that the autopsy photographs exhibiting gunshot entry points and trajectories, the firearm analysis, and the analysis of blood discovered on the clothing of defendant and the victim may have been relevant to demonstrate the distance from which the bullets were fired as well as their trajectory. Furthermore, the scientific evidence requested by defendant could have been used "to determine whether further inquiry would possibly lead to information favorable to defendant's case" (People v DaGata, 86 NY2d 40, 45). Although the "potential prejudice arising from noncompliance with the continuing duty of disclosure under CPL 240.20 could [have been] cured by the granting of a continuance" (People v Eleby, 137 AD2d 708, 709), here the court denied defendant's requests for even brief adjournments.