On July 28, 2020, the Berkshire County District Attorney’s Office announced that it will be implementing formal policies and procedures when it comes to disclosing potential exculpatory evidence to defense counsel pursuant to the rules established in the Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland. This policy is the latest initiative from the Berkshire County District Attorney Andrea Harrington in her commitment to promoting public trust in law enforcement. Exculpatory evidence is any evidence that is helpful to a defendant as it exonerates or tends to exonerate them of guilt. Brady created an obligation held by prosecutors to turn over any exculpatory evidence to defense counsel, and the failure to do so has caused severe miscarriages of justice in courts both locally and nationally. This proactive approach is intended to prevent these serious injustices.
What Will the Policy Do?Despite Brady being decided in 1963 and the District Attorney’s Office historically complying with its requirements on a case by case basis, there was never a formal policy in place for obtaining this information from law enforcement. This policy will require prosecutors to seek out and turn over all requested and required on-privileged information, to resolve any questions in favor of disclosure and proactively ask law enforcement to provide exculpatory evidence. It will also create a Brady review team to review information for disclosure and subject prosecutors to disciplinary action if they fail to comply. The purpose of these new policies are to safeguard the integrity of convictions, prevent false imprisonment, build trust in the justice system, and uphold due process rights. You may read the full press release from the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office here.