I’ve had the fortunate opportunities to work on several post-conviction release cases and I’m beginning to see a pattern. Finding exculpatory evidence in wrongful convictions can be achieved if you use the right approach. I certainly can’t say that my observations are valid or statistically sound but what I am seeing is the basis for developing and possibly applying a hypothesis on cases that I work on.
One of the most requested services I’ve encountered has been to ask me to search for evidence in a cold-case. The client is in prison and, as it turns out, justifiably protests his/her innocence. My clients have asked me to interact with the law enforcement agency and prosecutors that was involved in the investigation and conviction of the person. Using a variety of methods, I have been able to gain access to the evidence storage facilities maintained by these agencies and been able to conduct a search for specific pieces of evidence that were either brought out in trial or that should have been brought out and never were made a part of the case presentation. I can’t speak to say that the failure to bring this evidence out in court was intentional or not, but it was known by the law enforcement agencies and never revealed to the defense. Plain and simple; Brady material.
Once I was able to search for this unexplained evidence we found (1) evidence that was clearly associated with the case, (2) evidence that should have been associated with the case but was improperly labeled and improperly stored, or (3) not labeled and cross-contaminated but found to be associated with the case and not disclosed to the defense. In each of the cases, the evidence ended up contributing to the release of the accused with prejudice, meaning our ultimate client was free from potential future charges in the matter.
It seems to me that, in just about every case, there was an effort, intentional or unintentional, to not release information about all the evidence discovered by investigators, particularly if it might undermine their investigation. Obviously, this is a problem if it’s intentional (see a real-world example).
My message is, don’t hesitate to try difficult methods of supporting your innocent clients.
Contact us at UCMJ Investigations for further information.