NewYorkUniversity
LawReview

Issues

Author

Christopher Deal

Results

Brady Materiality Before Trial: The Scope of the Duty to Disclose and the Right to a Trial by Jury

Christopher Deal

Brady v. Maryland requires prosecutors to disclose to criminal defendants all material, favorable evidence in the government’s possession. Evidence is material if its disclosure would have created a reasonable probability of a different verdict. Though materiality may correctly guide appellate courts in deciding when to reverse convictions, the author contends that it is both impractical and unconstitutional to ask prosecutors to use materiality as the measure of their disclosure obligations before trial. It is impractical because it requires prosecutors convinced of the defendant’s guilt to decide what combination of evidence, if disclosed, would create a reasonable probability of an acquittal at the end of a trial that has yet to begin. It is unconstitutional so long as due process means something other than that which produces the right outcome. This Note suggests that prosecutors should employ a balancing test based on the interaction of Brady disclosure rules and the defendant’s right to a trial by jury to determine when favorable evidence must be disclosed. This balancing test provides prosecutors with a disclosure standard that is simple, constitutional, and compatible with courts’ continued use of the materiality standard after trial.