The Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) filed an amicus brief with the SJC last week in support of Benjamin LaGuer’s bid for a new trial. You can read the entire brief HERE. It and all the recent filings in the case are available at BenLaGuer.com. Excerpts follow:
In Criminal prosecutions the Commonwealth is routinely in sole possession of evidence which is critical to the defense. As a result, the defendant must rely upon the prosecution to properly comply with the discovery rules in order to ensure a fair trial. The outcome of this appeal will likely have a significant impact on the manner in which discovery violations are handled, and, as a result, will likely influence the level of care prosecutors dedicate to meeting their discovery obligations.
It is essential to motivate prosecutors to produce exculpatory evidence because the Commonwealth is often in exclusive possession of favorable evidence. If the prosecutor fails to come forward, the defendant will have no access to the exculpatory evidence, and the “truth-finding process of trial” will be corrupted.
It is undisputed that, (1) the state police prepared a fingerprint report two days after the incident, (2) contrary to pretrial assertions by the prosecutor and the trial testimony of the lead detective, the report established that the police lifted four complete fingerprints from the base of the phone, and those prints conclusively do not match the defendant’s fingerprints, (3) the report was under the custody or control of the prosecution, and (4) no part of the report was provided to the defendant until close to seventeen years after trial.
…[A]ccording to the portion of the fingerprint report still available, Detective Carignan had been personally notified long before trial by the Commonwealth’s fingerprint expert that four fingerprints were lifted from the phone, and that these prints were conclusively determined to not match the defendant’s fingerprints. Detective Carignan’s misleading testimony is properly characterized as gross negligence.
The SJC hearing is set for January 4, 2007.