This appeal — in case that already has had two mistrials — raises significant and interesting questions about the obligation of the state to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence.
The state has a constitutional obligation to disclose exculpatory evidence. Exculpatory evidence is evidence that is favorable to the accused and that is material to either guilt or punishment. This obligation was established in 1963 by the Supreme Court in Brady v Maryland. (Which is why lawyers sometimes refer to Brady obligations or Brady evidence.)
Courts have found that the obligation of the state to turn over exculpatory evidence includes the obligation to disclose evidence that may impact the credibility of a witness. This is the issue in the Widmer case.
The discovery that the state did not disclose exculpatory evidence can mean that defendants who have been convicted and incarcerated may later be declared innocent. as a result of DNA evidence, which was not available at the time of the original investigations. Following their release, all of the individuals file multi-million dollar lawsuits against the investigators, their supervisors, and their agencies for Brady violations. Their attorneys argue successfully that had their defense attorneys been provided with the exculpatory evidence in these cases, the defendant’s might not have been wrongfully convicted. Some case have suggested that if a police officer in a case has a past record of falsifying reports or other conduct which could impact their truthfulness, the prosecutor must provide the defense with that information.
Full disclosure: I previously worked for the Warren County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, although I left prior to the alleged crime in this matter.