Critics target NC bill limiting DAs evidence risk

March 28, 2011 9:42:18 AM PDT
Defense attorneys and people who were wrongly convicted after their lawyers did not get crucial investigative details are criticizing legislation proposed in North Carolina.Four exonerees -- including Greg Taylor of Raleigh and Darryl Hunt of Winston-Salem, who both spent more than 17 years in prison on faulty murder convictions -- and directors from several NC Innocence projects stood united Monday morning opposing a bill that would change requirements for the discovery process in criminal cases.

Proposed legislation introduced in the General Assembly earlier this month - House Bill 408 - would hold prosecutors responsible for giving defense attorneys what investigators have given them, but not what cops might have withheld.

The bill is backed by NC district attorneys. The legislation would protect DA's from blame if detectives withhold evidence. However, opponents say it would lessen the pressure prosecutors put on investigators to hand over documents.

2004 state law required prosecutors to share everything in their files in all felony cases and it was passed after it came to light that prosecutors withheld evidence documenting Alan Gells innocence. He had spent nine years on death row.

Opponents of House Bill 408 say if it's passed, it would make it harder for defendants to get information they need to expose the truth.

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