Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Suppressed Evidence Definition:

The intentional non-disclosure by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused and asked for by the accused, where that evidence is material either to guilt or punishment.

Related Terms: Brady Rule, Due Process

A doctrine of evidence in criminal proceedings that developed in the United States of America as a corollary to the Brady Rule.

In Taylor v State of Texas, Justice Ross of the Court of Appeals of Texas proposed:

"Brady requires a showing that the evidence was suppressed, that the suppressed evidence was favorable to the defense and material to either guilt or punishment — and creates a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome of the proceeding.... This first element of Brady is present if the prosecution actively suppresses evidence or negligently fails to disclose it."

In US v. Bin Laden, Justice Kevin Duffy of the United States District Court (New York) wrote:

"To support a Brady (rule) claim, undisclosed information must have been suppressed by the Government. Information is suppressed, in this context, where the Government fails to disclose it either intentionally or inadvertently.

"Here, because the videotapes were in the possession of a member of the prosecution team before, during, and after trial, any potential Brady ... information contained therein was suppressed under this standard."

In an Iowa case decided by Justice Ternus of the Supreme Court of Iowa in 2003 (Harrington v State of Iowa), the following concise statement of the law of suppressed evidence was proposed:

"Evidence is suppressed when information is discovered after trial which had been known to the prosecution but unknown to the defense. This test does not mean, however, that evidence unknown to the individual prosecutor is not considered suppressed. The prosecutor has a duty to learn of any favorable evidence known to others acting on the government's behalf in the case, including the police.

"Regardless of whether the prosecutor actually learns of the favorable evidence, the prosecution bears the responsibility for its disclosure. Thus, it is the fact of nondisclosure that is important; the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution in failing to produce the evidence is not.

"It is also now well established that the prosecution's duty to disclose is applicable even if there has been no request by the accused for the information. Nonetheless, if the defendant either knew or should have known of the essential facts permitting him to take advantage of the evidence, the evidence is not considered suppressed."

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