Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer Issues Statement on Brady Notification System
SANTA ANA, Calif. –The mission of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office is not to get convictions. The mission of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office is to pursue justice.
The victims of crimes and their families deserve fairness. At the same time, criminal defendants are also entitled to receive their constitutionally guaranteed due process rights.
These rights include being provided with Brady information which may be favorable to the accused, including evidence going to the credibility of police officers.
The burden of proof for triggering Brady is not beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead the burden is that there is beyond mere speculation that a witness may have credibility issues.
Shortly after taking office in January of 2019, I became aware of a prior decision made by the former District Attorney not to open a Brady investigative file on several deputies in the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Handling Unit.
He made that decision in direct conflict with the recommendation of the office’s career prosecutors and Senior Assistant District Attorneys made in connection with a comprehensive Brady review of the conduct of a number of Sheriff’s deputies involved in the Special Handling Unit.
Since there is the very real potential that these Sheriff’s deputies will still be involved in cases prosecuted by my Office, I directed my staff to fully brief me on the matter, and I personally reviewed all the relevant legal memorandums, factual background, and legal analysis.
I also personally met on multiple occasions with the prosecutors who reviewed this matter and authored the recommendations.
After an exhaustive review of the facts, I am reversing the decision made by the former District Attorney and adding Sheriff’s deputies from the Special Handling Unit to my Office’s Brady notification system.
This decision that I am making today is consistent with the recommendation that was previously made by senior prosecutors.
As a result, defense attorneys in cases where one of these deputy sheriffs is a witness will be notified of relevant Brady material as part of the discovery process. This applies to current, future, and legally impacted closed cases involving one of these deputies.
This is not a decision that I have made lightly. But it is one that was made based on the facts.
I am committed to ensuring that all the actions of my office will be consistent with the Supreme Court’s mandate that the “first, best, and most effective shield against injustice for an individual accused, or society in general, must be found not in the persons of defense counsel, trial judge, or appellate jurist, but in the integrity of the prosecutor.”