Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty on Wednesday announced a new process for her office to comply with a legal requirement that ensures defendants receive a fair trial.
The requirement, often referred to as “Brady/Giglio” following a 1963 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brady v. Maryland, dictates prosecutors must hand over evidence to the defense that may be favorable to the defendant’s case. In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Giglio v. United States that prosecutors and law enforcement must disclose to the defense whether a witness, including officers and other professional witnesses, may not be credible.
The new process ensures prosecutors receive information from law enforcement and disclose that information to comply with the rule, which includes if an officer was untruthful, engaged in a biased act or violated procedures related to excessive force or handling of evidence.
“While the law gives our office significant power to prosecute criminal conduct and restrict freedom, the law also imposes on us significant responsibilities to ensure defendants receive fair trials,” Moriarty said Wednesday. “The measures we’re announcing today strengthen the cases we prosecute, improve training for law enforcement and protect the rights of defendants.”
The new measures include establishing a new Division of Professional Standards, creating a process to make sure prosecutors are disclosing non-public information and revising the categories of officer conduct that could qualify as Brady/Giglio information.
Among the other measures are creating an interim process for law enforcement to comply with the disclosure law, providing training to attorneys, hiring an attorney – in this case Siara Melius – to focus entirely on compliance of the law and creating a database of judicial orders related to the credibility of witnesses.
Failure to comply with the Brady/Giglio requirement could lead to overturned cases, including one instance Moriarty described where the testimonies of one officer in multiple drug cases led to six cases being thrown out by judges.
In his last weeks in office, former Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman instituted a new policy for how prosecutors should provide Brady/Giglio information to defense attorneys, which was prompted by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department. The investigation found that MPD had a pattern of failure in handing over misconduct history of officers who were called as witnesses during trials.
Moriarty said her office engaged with more than 35 law enforcement agencies around the country and received feedback from them before crafting the new process. Brooklyn Park Police Chief Mark Bruley, who was alongside Moriarty, said Wednesday he had a lack of confidence that Freeman was complying with the Brady/Giglio requirements to prevent convictions from being overturned.
“That was the concern that I expressed numerous times,” Bruley said at the news conference. “This is absolutely the right move and at the moment, I have way more confidence that we are complying.”
“MPD continues to work with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office to revise and update the Memorandum of Understanding between her office, the Minneapolis Office of Police Conduct Review, and the Minneapolis Police Internal Affairs Division,” MPD spokesman Garrett Parten said in a statement to MinnPost. Parten did not comment specifically on the new measures.
Moriarty told MinnPost last month that her office is working on reforms after Marvin Haynes was released from prison following the overturning by a judge of a 2005 murder conviction of a Minneapolis flower shop owner. In that case the key witness initially identified another man as the assailant before being shown a different photo lineup with Haynes, whose appearance had changed at the time of the killing and did not resemble the description of the suspect. According to Moriarty, at least one of the investigators on the case expressed deep concerns with the pursuing of Haynes – 16 years old at the time – as a suspect but was overruled by more senior officers.
“My role as county attorney is to seek justice in every case, including cases that took place prior to my taking over,” said Moriarty in an interview to MinnPost following the release of Haynes. “It’s about justice and being open that there could have been miscarriages of justice in the past or even in my administration. Process is important.”
Ibrahim is MinnPost’s environment and public safety reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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