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Offense Report Copies

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 also reaffirmed the fundamentals of our system and demonstrated confidence in the quality of her prosecutors. A prosecutor whose sole aim is to see justice is done is unafraid that his adversary may be reading from the same report — after all, an accurate and thorough investigation convicts the guilty and protects the innocent. Unfortunately, maintenance of secret police reports is still the norm in some jurisdictions, such as Williamson County. The Williamson County district attorney’s office not only denies counsel copies of reports duly prepared by police agencies, but even refuses to permit lawyers to read from them. Counsel is entitled to review the reports only at trial — a little late, if you are the unfortunate person on trial for a crime you didn’t commit. This attitude reflects a neurotic insecurity about the talent and skill of its own prosecutors as well as distrust of the honesty and competency of local law enforcement. Worse, it suggests a need to hide police reports to maintain an unfair advantage, a policy elevating conviction rates above the interests of justice. Police reports should enter the sunshine of the adversary system earlier, more efficiently and more justly, as state lawmakers are preparing to ensure.

“Neurotic insecurity.” Ouch.

#JohnBradley #KeithHampton


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