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We have written previously on the tension for prosecutors in disclosing Brady material about police witnesses, noting that “there is a whole series of steps that can impede the disclosure of impeachment evidence about police officers.” A new law review article examines this tension in greater detail using original research to provide “the first account of the wide state-to-state disparities in Brady’s application to police personnel files.”

Jonathan Abel of Stanford’s Constitutional Law Center offers his account, “Brady’s Blind Spot: Impeachment Evidence in Police Personnel Files and the Battle Splitting the Prosecution Team,” in a forthcoming volume of the Stanford Law Review. The article is available in advance here.

Abel finds through original interviews with prosecutors, police, and defense attorneys, as well as unpublished and published sources, that “the widespread suppression of material in these files results not simply from prosecutorial cheating, but from the state statutory and local institutional constraints that give society’s imprimatur to the withholding of Brady material.” Abel concludes that the withholding of police personnel files – which may happen through statutes preventing prosecutors access, or through pressure on prosecutors from police officers and unions not to disclose – is incompatible with the basic tenets of Brady v. Maryland and its progeny.

 

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