What is Brady Material? Here's a Simplified Definition

It seems that Brady material is an ongoing problem with the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

I offer this on behalf of Jordan Lewis in our office.  His simplified definition of Brady material is something like this -

If a prosecutor learns something about a case and his/her first reaction is, I hope the defense lawyer doesn't find out about this, then it is probably Brady material.

This is to all of the young prosecutors out there, if there is any question about whether something is Brady material or not, turn it over.  As a matter of fact, if you are trying to convict someone and take away his/her freedom, don't you think it is fair to give the defense everything you have - especially the information that tends to show he/she didn't do it?

Judge Rules Harris County District Attorney Violated Defendant's Rights

A visiting Harris County District Court Judge ruled that the State prosecutors should have turned over exculpatory evidence to the defense lawyers before the start of a sexual assault trial. 

According to the article,

Visiting state District Judge Van Culp said the chief of the Crimes Against Children Division of the Harris County District Attorney's Office should have revealed that the girl accusing 54-year-old Glen Kahlden originally said a black man assaulted her. Kahlden is white.

So what is Brady materialBrady material is the suppression of evidence favorable to an accused.  In other words, if the government has any evidence that tends to show that a defendant is not guilty or did not commit the crime, the government is required to produce this evidence to the defense. 

Why is this such a big deal in the Houston criminal defense community?  Well, those of us who are criminal defense lawyers have repeatedly complained that the District Attorney's office routinely fails to fulfill its duty to disclose Brady material.  Even more troubling is the fact that the person committing the violation is the one of the most senior prosecutors in the office and the chief of a division in the Harris County District Attorney's Office. 

The problem starts at the top and trickles down to the underlings.  It is no surprise that the younger Harris County prosecutors don't turn over Brady material upon learning of it.  There is a saying, that floats around,

Prosecutors wouldn't know Brady material if it were staring right at them.