Dallas DA Brady violations may overturn sex convictions, highlight need for discovery reform
A Dallas Morning News story lays out the simple arithmetic of wrongful convictions. Lack of discovery for defendants plus prosecutors who hide Brady material= Wrongful conviction.
Antrone Lynelle Johnson twice was convicted of sexual assault as a high school student, earning him a life sentence.
Mr. Johnson, 31, contends that both cases from the mid-1990s were built on lies and prosecutorial misconduct. If a judge agrees, he could be set free as early as Monday.
In one of the cases, a girl told the prosecutor that Mr. Johnson did not rape her. In the other, the girl gave conflicting statements about whether she had sex with him.
Mr. Johnson and his attorneys were not told until this year about either of the girls’ comments – a violation of the law.
The Dallas County district attorney’s office agrees that Mr. Johnson’s first conviction – and life sentence – should be overturned. Mr. Johnson has already served a five-year sentence in the second case.
No DNA testing was done in either case.
The “victims” conflicting statements were never made available to the defense. Theoretically, every prosecutor is required to disclose exculpatory evidence, known as Brady material, to the defense.
In reality, defendants have no way to enforce this right. Texas defendants have very little right to discovery. Parties in a car wreck, or a divorce case in Texas, have a much greater right to discovery than criminal defendants.
For example, police reports do not have to be turned over to the defendant. Grand jury testimony can also be withheld. That is why Brady violations are nefarious. When a prosecutor purposefully denies Brady material to a defendant, the defendant may NEVER learn about this evidence. Ergo, innocent defendants may never be freed, or learn of the evidence that could free them.
Instead of forcing defendant to rely on the altruism of prosecutors who want to convict them, Texas should require all information in possession of the state be turned over to the defense. There is no legitimate reason for the State to hide evidence. The integrity of our system in compromised by each wrongful conviction.