Due Process, Half-Truths, And Brady Material

Real justice means everyone accused of a crime gets a fair process to defend against the accusations. In many cases due process happens. Our system of justice, however, requires that occurs in all cases. This isn’t exactly an onerous requirement. It starts with the truth.

The truth means…

…the whole truth, not a half-truth. A half-truth is a type of lie. A half-truth can make something that is merely a belief appear to be knowledge. A half-truth is a deceptive statement that contains an element of truth. The fallacy uses a kernel of truth in the statement, as support to deceive the recipient into believing the entire statement is true. Half-truths are difficult to detect because they are wrapped in the appearance of believability.
As one court aptly stated:

“[s]quarely false statements are not the problem. They are easily and effectively eliminated from the case law. The more elusive, and therefore more tenacious, culprit is the half-truth. Glenn v. State, 68 Md. App. 379, 381-82, 511 A.2d 1110, 1112 (1986).

The half-truth is most dangerous…

…in criminal prosecutions. The primary safeguard used to help ensure that someone gets due progress is the holding of Brady v. Maryland. Because of Brady, the law requires the prosecution to disclose any evidence that shows a person accused of a crime is actually innocent.
Brady is meant to prevent the half-truth deception. For example, when someone is charged with aiding in a murder by providing a gun to the killer, an eyewitness saying the accused was at the scene carrying a gun is damming evidence. However, are there any other facts that might make you question whether he actually committed the crime?

  • How about if the witness was on felony probation?
  • How about the fact he was on probation for robbery?
  • How about if the witness had a motive to lie?

Here, the half-truth is the witness’s statement about the accused being at the scene while carrying the gun. However, revealing the other half of the truth tells a much different story. Providing only a half-truth means the accused received process. Providing the whole truth means they received due process.
Think the above scenario is far fetched: read this decision from the 9th Circuit that was issued a few days ago.

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