By Anna Mumford, Albany Government Law Review
The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution states that, “[n]o State. . . shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” As a cornerstone principle of the criminal justice system, this constitutional right requires the government to disclose all favorable evidence within their control to a criminal defendant. However, all too often in this country, prosecutors have suppressed key evidence that could potentially exonerate a defendant. Even right here, in the great Capital City, there have been instances where the accused have been deprived of the right to due process and a fair trial.
In October 2009, two local Albany men were indicted by the Grand Jury for murder, facing life in prison without the possibility of parole. Their case was scheduled to begin on November 1, 2010. However, during a pre-trial hearing, only four days before opening statements, it was discovered that the Albany County prosecutors had just turned over a key witness’s statement favorable to the defense. The statement, made by an eye witness, claimed that the shooter was not of the same race as either of the co-defendants. Prosecutors, sitting on this statement for the past three years, claimed to have turned over the statement in a “good faith,” timely manner.