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Discovery in the Dark

New York’s Secret Evidence Rules

Discovery is the process by which parties to a court case exchange evidence before trial. It is essential to informed decision-making, trial strategy, and settlement negotiations. In the criminal justice system, where a defendant’s life or liberty may be at stake, discovery also determines whether we honor the constitutional guarantee that you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Discovery rules determine whether an accused person has access to the government’s evidence – not only evidence of guilt, but also of innocence – so that the person, with the aid of an attorney, can make informed decisions about how to proceed with a defense.

Unfortunately, New York’s criminal discovery system, constitutionally required to give accused persons a fair shot at justice, often falls far short, leaving the accused in the dark about evidence that might set them free, reduce their punishment, or at least give them a way to aid in their own defense. The result is a cost New Yorkers pay every day in loss of freedom, loss of property, loss of dignity, and loss of faith in the justice system.

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