I had another post all lined up and ready to publish, but this article in the Colorado Springs Gazette about our local DA failing to disclose evidence in a sex crime prosecution against a cop hit the wires and I thought it was just too timely and too relevant to not comment.
Colorado Rule of Criminal Procedure 16 dictates what information must be turned over by the prosecution to the defense and when it must be turned over. This flow of information, and the information itself, is known as "discovery". Rule 16 applies to all criminal cases from the most heinous murder cases to a Colorado Springs DUI case. While there is some discretion regarding what the DA must turn over, for practical purposes, the letter and spirit of the Rule dictate that the prosecution needs to turn over EVERYTHING!
Why? In the most broad terms, it's because our Constitution requires that a defendant be given a vigorous defense to protect against tyranny and corruption. It's because we want transparency in our government agencies. It's because the District Attorney is supposed to be the good guy. The guy in the white hat. While a Colorado Springs Criminal Defense Attorney is charged with zealously representing his client, the ethical dictates for a prosecutor are different--a prosecutor is to seek "justice". You know, the person that makes sure the rules are applied evenly. The person that ensures that justice is done. The person that is supposed to look at what is fair.
This is not the first time that our current DA's office has come under scrutiny for discovery violations. In 2010, we learned in a Colorado Springs Independent article that potentially hundreds of Colorado Springs DUI charges cases were prosecuted with faulty blood tests. Until Colorado Springs DUI lawyers fought to have the erroneous blood tests brought to light, the DA's office sat on it. And even after the problems were disclosed and the Crime Lab was decertified to test blood (it still is, by the way), the DA continued to prosecute those cases.
So, this new allegation continues a disturbing trend. What's most disturbing about it is that there are just two explanations. First, the DA's office is so inept that it is mismanaging evidence in a high profile sex crime case against a cop. And that's bad. Really bad. The second explanation is that the DA is intentionally hiding evidence. Which is much worse.