The Los Angeles Times reports that the District Attorney of Los Angeles County recently announced changes to her office’s disclosure practices following an agreement with the ACLU of Southern California to ensure the timely disclosure of favorable evidence.
The ACLU of Southern California and other civil rights attorneys filed a lawsuit against the county last year alleging systemic Brady violations on the part of LA County prosecutors. Read about the lawsuit here. In exchange for the lawyers dropping the lawsuit, newly elected LA County DA Jackie Lacey “gave assurances that the policies would be revised.”
Under previous DA Steve Cooley, prosecutors were apparently using an internal office database, or “Brady Alert System,” to determine what evidence ought to be disclosed to defense attorneys. Evidence of police officer misconduct, for instance, was not included in the system and so was not being disclosed.
Lacey says the two new policies issued by her office merely summarize existing laws that outline prosecutors’ legal obligations to disclose all evidence that is favorable to the defense including, says the Daily Bulletin, evidence that they suspect may be false.
But she voiced strong support for full disclosure in a statement to the media:The integrity of the criminal justice system requires that prosecutors play fair in seeking justice. When in doubt, we want our prosecutors to disclose the evidence and litigate its admissibility in a court of law.
Lacey’s approach appears to be is in sharp contrast to the manner in which former DA Steve Cooley responded to the lawsuit when it was filed. Cooley’s statement to media at the time read:The lawsuit … is a blatant attempt to mislead the public and the court. This office is confident that our … policy complies with the highest constitutional and statutory standards.
The LA Times reported that the ACLU submitted a state bar complaint against Cooley and called for a civil grand jury investigation into his office’s conduct in criminal cases at around the same time the lawsuit was filed.
While Lacey has taken affirmative steps to address the improper withholding of favorable evidence, her office maintains that the new policies simply outline best practices that are “nothing new” and that prosecutors will continue to use a “clear and convincing evidence” standard for including officers in its Brady database.