Criminal Justice

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Subject: Disclosure of Past Misconduct by Officers

One of the dilemmas that face the courts today is what a prosecutor should do if he or she is aware of the past misconduct of a police officer involved in the case. In other words, is the prosecutor obliged to disclose such past misconducts or dishonesty by the officer who is involved in a pending case to the defendant? However, the answer to the question is that it is not an obligation and the prosecution may sometimes disclose such issues (Welty, 1). More importantly, the dishonesty or misconduct of the officer serves as a tool for impeachment in the ongoing case. The cases of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972) and the United States v. Agurs, 427 U. S. 97 (1976) are used here to analyze the subject.

Noteworthy, a number of factors determine whether the misconduct or dishonesty by an officer is important in the pending case. First, the case must take into consideration how long ago the dishonesty or misconduct took place. For that matter, the more recent the misconduct the higher the chances that it will be considered valuable to the pending case. Furthermore, the case considers how serious the misconduct by the officer was. Therefore, more serious acts will obviously be considered material to the case. In addition, consideration must be given to how conclusively the case of the misconduct was established. The information will thus be material only if it is more likely that the officer engaged in the misconduct. In certain situations, the dishonesty may have resulted in a fact pattern similar to the current case. For instance, an officer may falsify a search warrant in both former case and current case and as such, the information is considered material.

More importantly, it must be considered whether the role of the officer in question is key to the current case or just peripheral. In addition, the case must determine whether the defendant in the case is planning to present his/her case based on the dishonesty or misconduct of the officer. If an officer plays a key role in the case, the information concerning misconduct will be vital. Similarly, if the defendant plans to use the dishonesty or misconduct information by the officer to present the case, the information is regarded as important. Finally, the judges consider whether the misconduct evidence is found in personnel records or in some less private sources. Information from personnel records is more reliable as they are subject to privacy.

In the Brady v. Maryland case, the Supreme Court ruled that for the defendant to have a fair trial, his/her attorney must be allowed access to exculpatory meant to demonstrate innocence. John Brady and Charles Boblit were accused of robbing and killing (Bass, 121). They were tried separately upon arrest and convicted for murder. However, Brady wanted to avoid death penalty and hence he admitted to have participated in the event but claimed that the killing was carried out by Boblit. His attorney requested for the statements made by Boblit but the prosecution concealed a statement in which Boblit admitted to committing murder (Brady v. Maryland373 U.S. 831963). As such, the rights of the defendant were violated by intentionally concealing exculpatory evidence. In Giglio v. United States, the prosecution failed to disclose that his statement was obtained through exchange by leniency (Giglio v. United States405 U. S. 1501972). In both cases, the court determined that the concealed information was material to the case.

Finally, in the United States v. Agurs, 427 U. S. 97 (1976) case, the defendant was convicted for committing second degree murder after killing Sewell during a fight using a knife. All the evidence showed that Augurs was guilty of murder but concealed the fact that before the murder, Sewell was armed with two knives that the respondent used to stab him several times (United States v. Agurs, 427 U. S. 97 1976). Thereafter, the respondent’s attorney moved to court to request for a second trial disclosing that he had discovered that Sewell had a past criminal record. Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment grants the respondent the right to a fair trial that the prosecution tried to deprive her of by not disclosing some information.

In conclusion, the requirement by the court for the prosecutor to disclose certain information concerning past cases has become a controversial topic in the recent past. However, it is apparent that the prosecution is only required to disclose certain information that is considered material to the ongoing case. Such past misconducts are used to impeach an officer from an ongoing case. Noteworthy, the period that the misconduct has taken, the seriousness and whether the respondent plans to use the information in the case are considered before granting such orders. In all the three scenarios, it is apparent that the prosecution denied the respondents their rights to fair trial.

Works Cited

Bass, Victor. Brady v. Maryland and the Prosecutor’s Duty to Disclose. The University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Autumn, 1972), pp. 112-140. 1972. The University of Chicago Law Review.

Brady v. Maryland373 U.S. 83      (1963)

Giglio v. United States405 U. S.      150 (1972)

United States v. Agurs, 427 U. S.      97 (1976)

Welty, Jeff. Must Officers’ Prior Misconduct Be Disclosed in Discovery? North Carolina Criminal Law. 2012. Retrieved from prior-misconduct-be-disclosed-in-discovery/