RHODE ISLAND CRIMINAL DEFENSE A Practice Manual – Exculpatory Evidence Doctrine

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A Practice Manual, 4th Edition
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Exculpatory Evidence Doctrine

In Superior and District Court, the state is required to disclose exculpatory evidence when the basis of the violation hearing is a new criminal charge. Since the prosecution has an immediate and ongoing responsibility to turn over evidence favorable to the accused, including evidence that may be used to impeach the credibility of prosecution witnesses, such evidence must be made available to the defendant prior to and during a violation hearing. Also, the disclosure of exculpatory evidence is arguably a minimum due process requirement. See State v. Chabot, 682 A.2d 1377 (R.I. 1996) (“…a violation proceeding presents the possibility of the loss of liberty prompting the requirement of ‘certain constitutional safeguards.'”).

Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). Due process requires the prosecution to disclose evidence favorable to an accused when such evidence is material to the issues of guilt or punishment.

U.S. v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 107 (1976). Although a specific request for exculpatory material is helpful, it is not required in order to “trigger” the prosecutions obligation to disclose.

Giglio v. U.S., 405 U.S. 150 (1972); State v. Wyche, 518 A.2d 907 (RI 1986). The obligation to disclose exculpatory material also includes evidence that may be used to impeach the testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses.

Mooney v. Molohan, 294 U.S. 103, 108 (1935). The prosecution’s duty to disclose exculpatory material is ongoing and continues throughout the proceedings.

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