Impaired Legal Representation
Without timely access to evidence, defense attorneys can not conduct the investigations, research, and analysis necessary for their clients to receive a complete defense.
Discovery reform requires prosecutors to disclose all relevant materials to defense attorneys on an accelerated timeline before trial, maximizing attorneys' ability to prepare a complete defense.
Pre-trial delays & incarceration
While it has never been easier to disclose information electronically in a timely manner, turnover of discovery was often inexcusably delayed by prosecutors, causing extensive pre-trial delays.
As a result of these delays, people spent months, or even years, in jail. In addition to the physical and mental trauma of incarceration, pre-trial incarceration can lead to loss of employment, housing, or custody of children.
The 2019 discovery law requires prosecutors to turn over all relevant evidence within 15 days of arraignment, preventing inexcusable delays and minimizing pre-trial incarceration. Extensions are permitted if the evidence is particularly voluminous.
Before the 2019 discovery law, prosecutors were allowed to withhold evidence until the day of trial. In the majority of cases, people were compelled to plead guilty without seeing the evidence against them.
Access to discovery ensures that people are given the facts to make informed plea decisions.
Before 2019, New York led the country in wrongful convictions, many of which were the product of prosecutors concealing information from the defense.
Often, access to discovery is the difference between a guilty and innocent verdict. Discovery reform minimizes the likelihood of wrongful convictions.