All lawyers are held to strict ethical standards and bound by laws in California. District attorneys are no different. Prosecutors are required to turn over any and all possible exculpatory evidence upon receiving it and discovering its useful nature to the defense. This can include anything, ranging from:
- Investigator notes
- Witness testimony
- Audio and video records
Based on the Brady v. Maryland case (Brady v. Maryland 373 U.S. 83 (1963)), this is commonly referred to as “Brady material.” In the Brady case, the Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors must turn over evidence that could help the defense or be used to attack the credibility of a witness. So what happens when district attorneys fail to follow this procedure?
District Attorney Misconduct in Orange County
This situation of district attorney misconduct recently came to light in Orange County. Deputy District Attorney Erik Petersen, who was assigned to felony cases in the North Justice Center, reportedly used misconduct in several high profile cases.
Most of this alleged misconduct surrounded the use of jailhouse informants, who are inmates that investigators use to get a confession from the suspect while being held in custody. When the inmate hears a confession from the suspect, he will inform prosecutors. The use of jailhouse informants is not illegal. However, it is not allowed when the suspect is represented by an attorney because it can be considered a form of interrogation, and the suspect has a right to an attorney during an interrogation.