Offense Report Copies

 Posted on January 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

Keith Hampton's editorial in today's Austin American-Statesman contrasts Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg's new policy of providing defense lawyers with copies of offense reports with Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley's policy of not allowing defense lawyers to see offense reports:

In leading the way on this cost-saving measure, Lehmberg alsoreaffirmed the fundamentals of our system and demonstrated confidencein the quality of her prosecutors. A prosecutor whose sole aim is tosee justice is done is unafraid that his adversary may be reading fromthe same report - after all, an accurate and thorough investigationconvicts the guilty and protects the innocent. Unfortunately,maintenance of secret police reports is still the norm in somejurisdictions, such as Williamson County.The Williamson County district attorney's office not only deniescounsel copies of reports duly prepared by police agencies, but evenrefuses to permit lawyers to read from them. Counsel is entitled toreview the reports only at trial - a little late, if you are theunfortunate person on trial for a crime you didn't commit. This attitude reflects a neurotic insecurity about the talent and skill ofits own prosecutors as well as distrust of the honesty and competencyof local law enforcement. Worse, it suggests a need to hide policereports to maintain an unfair advantage, a policy elevating convictionrates above the interests of justice. Police reports should enter thesunshine of the adversary system earlier, more efficiently and morejustly, as state lawmakers are preparing to ensure.

"Neurotic insecurity." Ouch.

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