Revisiting Defense’s duty of disclosure: People v. Adrian Landers
What is the line between a Criminal Defense Counsel’s duty to disclose evidence to Prosecution and the same duty to represent the Client? In People v. Adrian Landers decided 1/16/19, the Trial Court hit a Public Defender with a sanction “for violating a reciprocal discovery order.” It was a two-defendant joint criminal trial and the Court found the PD failed to disclose to the People the name and statements taken from a witness called by the co-defendant. The PD didn’t put on any witnesses or evidence and instead just argued the People didn’t prove their case.
To begin, Penal Code 1054.3(a) says “the defense shall disclose: the names and addresses of persons, other than the defendant, he or she intends to call as witnesses at trial, together with any relevant written or recorded statements of those persons, or reports of the statements of those persons.”
Now, this is different than the People’s duty of disclosure: “[l]aw enforcement officers have the obligation to convict the guilty and to make sure they do not convict the innocent. They must be dedicated to making the criminal trial a procedure for the ascertainment of the true facts surrounding the commission of the crime . . . [, while d]efense counsel has no comparable obligation to ascertain or present the truth.”
“Obviously, this does not mean defense counsel is licensed to put forward false facts or tell ‘half-truth[s]’ …but what it does mean is that the defense always has the option of standing mute and putting the state to its proof.” “For the defense, unless a claimed item of discovery falls within the express terms of section 1054.3, ‘there is no statutory or constitutional duty on the part of the defendant to disclose anything to the prosecution.’”
The holding here: Defense Counsel did not violate the reciprocal discovery order, the Court reversed the sanctions order. See People v. Adrian Landers 2019 Cal. App. 31 Cal. App. 5th 288.