We reproduce the primary message from a letter to all the members of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers from its President:

Fifty years ago today, the United States Supreme Court held in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), that the government must disclose to the defense all information favorable to the accused. This obligation — which applies to both the determination of guilt and the imposition of sentence — is too often ignored. The list of victims of the government’s failure to comply with this constitutional requirement continues to grow. Summaries of stories like those of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, Lindsey Manufacturing, Edgar Rivas, and Anthony Washington are available in NACDL’s “Human Cost of Brady Violations” paper.

The systemic violation of Brady must stop. Towards this end, NACDL seeks codification of the government’s obligation to provide to the defense all information favorable to the accused. On March 15, 2012, with NACDL support, leading U.S. Senators introduced bipartisan legislation to achieve needed discovery reform in criminal proceedings – The Fairness in Disclosure Act of 2012. This Act was introduced on the heels of Special Counsel Schuelke’s Report to Judge Emmet Sullivan on Prosecutorial Misconduct in the late Sen. Ted Stevens case. And the NACDL Task Force on Discovery Reform is developing model state disclosure legislation to aid legislators in 50 states to ensure due process for those accused of crime.

The May edition of The Champion will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Brady. It will focus on the critical subjects of Brady and discovery in criminal proceedings. More information about NACDL’s work in the area of discovery reform is available at www.nacdl.org/discoveryreform. Enforcing the constitutional obligation to disclose favorable information to our clients is central to NACDL’s mission.  * * *


Steven D. Benjamin
NACDL President