If you ever watched Law & Order, you have probably heard of the Brady Rule. It is a rule of evidence that stems from the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brady v. Maryland in 1963. The precedent from that case requires prosecutors to disclose material, exculpatory information in the government’s possession to the defense.
Exculpatory information means evidence that tends to prove the Defendant’s innocence of the charges or is at least favorable to the defense.
House Bill 165 codifies this Supreme Court precedent into Delaware law (hey, it only took sixty years!). The purpose of this bill is to ensure the fairness and finality of criminal trials and guilty pleas by requiring that the accused in every criminal case promptly receives all information and evidence favorable that is material to guilt or to punishment.
The bill defines what the prosecution must mandatorily disclose to the defense, which includes information relating to the credibility of a police officer and impeachment evidence of government witnesses such as favorable treatment of the witness’s criminal charges (i.e. a plea deal where the witness gets a lesser charge or sentence in exchange for testimony against another Defendant).
The bill also sets forth the process and timing of such disclosure and requires the prosecutor on the case to file a certificate of compliance with the Court. The bill provides a process by which the State can seek a protective order relating to the disclosure of information it must disclose if the State can show that disclosure would create a substantial risk of physical harm, intimidation, bribery, economic reprisals or unnecessary annoyance or embarrassment.