Sunday, April 26, 2015

Did Judge Priester change the rules of criminal procedure?

Hinds County Court Judge Melvin Priester, Sr. ordered JPD to provide all evidence in criminal cases to the office if the Hinds County Public Defender prior to preliminary hearings for suspects.  Judge Priester issued this order:


Jerry Gallo said...

I'm not a lawyer, but... Marisa Tomei taught me that those guys have to release that info...little dear, by the brook...

Anonymous said...

I am a lawyer, what. The standard of proof in a preliminary hearing is so low anyway, who really cares if the prosecution will now be required to disclose the written reports prior to the prelim.?

Elementary concepts of fundamental fairness and due process ought to require the advanced disclosure in any event, but try telling that to the prosecutors in Rankin County Justice Court and/or various Municipal Courts in that county. For misdemeanor cases, mind you. The land of where securing a conviction is more convenient than doing the right thing. Well, securimg the conviction AND collecting the fine, court costs, and state assessments.

FTM. Alway "follow the money" in the criminal justice "system."

Anonymous said...

Typically discovery is not provided until after indictment. Anyone has ever conducted a preliminary examination knows that a police officer typically takes the stand and simply reads from a report. The defense attorney will then request a copy of the report (as he can do under Evidence Rule 612 Refreshing the Memory of a Witness) for the purpose of reviewing the report. I'm assuming that this was going on far too often and wasting too much time so he just ordered the reports to be produced ahead of time.

Guilty As Charged in Count 1 of the Indictment said...

God forbid I should know the charges and evidence against me prior to my trial. Shades of Russia.

Anonymous said...

11:23, if you want criminal case disclosure in Rankin Justice Court, the answer is contained in this document:

Anonymous said...

3:16, very much aware of that. However, it shouldn't be nearly that difficult to propound discovery. SDT's (subpoena duces tecums) for documents that you can obtain just by a simple request via email and/or letter for cases pending in Jackson Municipal Court, Ridgeland Municipal Court, Madison Municipal Court, etc.!?! Ridiculous.

See also:

Anonymous said...

The rules provide that in felony cases the defendant receives discovery after indictment. It is important to remember that at the time of the preliminary hearing the investigation is not complete and ongoing. Don't be naive, any info shared with a defense attorney will also be shared with the suspect, his family, friends, etc. This will lead to witnesses being threatened and compromised. Cases will be sabotaged before they are fully investigated.
This is why the sunshine law does not apply to ongoing criminal investigations. This is a bad ruling and should be challenged by the DA. Rule 9.04 already addresses discovery. Priester has no authority to amend or supplement the rules. Only the Supremes can do that.

someoneinnorthms said...

4:41, spoken like the true prosecutor you must be.

It never ceases to amaze me how prosecutors ignore Brady, Giglio, Kyles, and their progeny. For all the prosecutors out there: these are the cases that were decided by the U.S. Supreme Court that define the state's discovery obligations. Rule 9.04 is meaningless, superfluous even, when one reads these cases. Oops, IF one reads these cases. Furthermore, these obligations are binding, even in Mississippi. *gasp*.

Don't be naive. Snitches are hidden away and relevant surveillance videos are destroyed by the private parties that hold them. Most of the evidence useful to the defense is either purposefully or accidentally lost to the defendant in the year or so the defendant sits in the county jail unable to make his million dollar bond for a commercial burglary or something similar.

Anyway, those defendant are mostly black and guilty, so who really gives a shit, huh? Not us good white people who wear ties to work. So, wave that 9.04 flag because nobody will ever force you to read U.S. Supreme Court caselaw now that you've passed the bar.

Kingfish said...

I've always thought the law preventing discovery in muni and justice courts was unconstitutional. If the state can throw you in jail for a conviction. Then you should have the right to examine the evidence against you before trial.

someoneinnorthms said...

I hear of such "law," but nobody can ever produce citation adequate to satisfy me. I don't think there is such "law." If there is law written down that says the state can prosecute and jail you, then, yes,nit IS unconstitutional

Are there any justice/municipal court practitioners who know what rule, statute, or case purports to stand for that proposition? I've never had anyone actually identify text that I could read for myself. Until I see it, I think it's just lore.

Anonymous said...

"...throw you in jail for a conviction..." - Isn't that the way it's supposed to work?

Anonymous said...

Is this move by the Judge an attempt to justify his lack of adequate bond in previous cases?

Anonymous said...

This topic of "discovery" has been an issue for as long as most criminal practitioners can remember.

Back in 2009, Chris Graves challenged this practice of lower courts not turning over discovery to defendants charged with a crime in municipal or justice court. The prosecutors response to that issue was ridiculous, and I'll post it below.

Everyone seems to be asking where the rule comes from, which is a valid question, and one that we do not always see on this site. The answer is not simple, though.

First of all, there is no law that says "discovery is not allowed in municipal or justice court." Prosecutors (and former prosecutors who are now on the bench) have always read the Uniform Rules of Circuit and County Court Practice as just that: rules that only apply to the circuit and county court level. Since the words Municipal or Justice are nowhere in the title, then Rule 9.04 is just a number to them and nothing more.

Having a municipal or justice court judge understand the rulings in Brady, Giglio, and Kyles (as the poster earlier mentioned) does not always work, and the problem is that once the lower court judge denies the defense attorney's request for discovery prior to trial, the only vehicle for an appeal is to the county court (or circuit, if the county is not populous enough for a county court), where the Uniform Rules of Circuit and County Court Practice apply, and any argument about the lower court's improper ruling is considered moot.

Here's where it really gets entertaining. Prosecutors think it's just too "burdensome" to turn over discovery in lower court.

These are direct quotations from the JFP article where they interviewed a few prosecutors:

"Rankin County prosecutor Richard Wilson argues that denying discovery in justice court is only a matter of being fair to the state. Prosecutors can only request discovery materials from a defendant if the defendant makes a request first. Justice court defense attorneys have taken advantage of this fact by obtaining the state's evidence and then claiming to have none of their own, Wilson says. Because an appeal to county court is essentially a do-over for their defendant, defense attorneys could use discovery at the lower level as a means of peeking at their adversaries' hand, he claims.

"If he doesn't ask for discovery in county court, I can't ask him for anything," Wilson said. "He can show up with a busload of witnesses I've never heard of."

Moreover, Wilson argued, instituting a discovery rule in lower courts would be logistically unfeasible.

"Even though I'm full time as county prosecutor, we're going to bust over 11,000 cases in justice court this year," Wilson said. "Can you imagine trying to respond to discovery requests for all that? The economics just prohibit it."

Mike Boland, prosecutor for the City of Flowood, agreed with Wilson. Like Wilson, he refuses to share discovery evidence with defendants in municipal court, arguing that it could give a defendant the advantage on appeal.

"After being blindsided with surprise witnesses, it became apparent that that was a really unfair situation," Boland said.

Basically, no prosecutor knows how to scan a file, attach it as a .pdf, and then email it to a defense attorney. That simple process requires zero money to complete.

On The Books said...

Does this explain the littany of postponements in Hinds? Nobody on either side knows how to engage in discovery (as 3:32 seems to suggest in his conclusion)?

Anonymous said...

@4:27. No. this does not explain the postponements since those are done at the circuit court level. The post @3:32 only justifies the actions of the county court judge for ordering the JPD to turn over "facts and circumstances" to the defense, which are the underlying reasons for the affidavit filed against the defendant. Basically, exactly what the investigator/detective will be relying on to testify at a preliminary hearing.

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