I used to live in Ellis County and I had a few criminal cases there. Not as many as I had in Kaufman and Dallas, but enough that I quickly learned the Ellis County District Attorney’s had little regard for justice or preventing wrongful convictions. Why? They had a closed file policy.
Here’s how it went. Client would hire me for a DWI or weed case. I’d go to court and ask for a copy of the police report. I’d be told that they could read it to me (no seriously, they would say this), or sometimes even let me read it. But if I wanted a copy then I would have to file a discovery motion and then they would withdraw all plea offers and force my client to trial. So basically they set up a closed file system to bully defendants into pleading guilty without looking at the evidence. It worked sometimes, clients may not want a jury trial and they may not even want a pre trial hearing, they may just want a plea bargain, but it’s hard to negotiate when you don’t know anything about the case. The ADA would usually say something like “well, you can ask your client what happened.” That’s cute, your officer has the ability to stop and take notes, review the video tape, speak to witnesses at the scene. My client is in handcuffs and can’t record anything, so yeah, thanks for the great advice.
I thought this closed file policy was ethically dubious. The prosecutor, by hiding all evidence, was asserting that nothing in their file was exculpatory (Brady material), which they had a duty to disclose. Of course, these ADA’s seemed to think nothing was exculpatory, in a Ken Anderson way. The closed file policy also showed a complete lack of confidence in local law enforcement’s ability to investigate and document suspected criminal activity.