Brady Violations and the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA)

What is a Brady Violation? If I have one can I file a new appeal under the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA)?

Generally speaking, under the Brady doctrine for discovery, the District Attorney must give you any discovery that shows that you may be not guilty. The true analysis comes into play when the DA argues that the piece of discovery is not in their possession. That’s a tough subject.

However, the courts have ruled that if the piece of discovery is in the possession of the police, the DA must go get it and hand it over. This includes the entire police file.

There is a new case from the United States Supreme Court on this issue,  JUAN SMITH, PETITIONER v. BURL CAIN, WARDEN, No. 10–8145, 2012 WL 43512 (January 10, 2012). In this matter, the Court ruled that even the hand written notes inside the police file of the investigation officer must be handed over to the defendant. 

If a Brady violations comes up after your direct appeal, you can file an appeal under the PCRA to say that you had a constitutional violation in your case. However, to be successful on a PRCA you must not only show that you have a constitutional violation, but you must also show that had the information sought been turned over before trial and presented to the government, you could have been found not guilty, i.e. there would have been a different outcome. 

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