Monday, June 16, 2014
Court of Appeal Rules Defendant Cannot Contest Denial of Brady Motion Brought by Prosecution
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A defendant cannot appeal the denial of a prosecution motion seeking to compel disclosure of possible Brady material related to that defendant in a police officer’s personnel file, where the trial judge finds there was no such material, the First District Court of Appeal has ruled.
Div. Two Thursday dismissed Julio Davis’ appeal from an order of San Francisco Superior Court Judge Angela Bradstreet. The judge denied the unusual motion by the district attorney for discovery of records in Officer Robert Walker’s personnel file that might exculpate Julio Davis, convicted of first degree burglary in 2000.
The motion was filed in 2012 and served on the San Francisco Police Department and on the attorney who represented Davis at his trial. The defense argued then that Davis did not break into an apartment and steal property as alleged, but entered the apartment building after the actual burglar had left, looking for a warm place to sleep because he was homeless.
Jurors found him guilty, and because he had four prior burglary convictions, he was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
In the discovery motion, a prosecutor said there might be reason to question Walker’s testimony regarding the chain of custody of burglary tools that were allegedly seized from Davis. Davis’ trial attorney was appointed to represent him in connection with the motion and waived the defendant’s appearance.
After reviewing documents produced by the SFPD and concluding that none of them were material to the case against Davis, showed moral turpitude on the part of Walker, or could have been used to impeach Walker’s testimony, Bradstreet denied the motion and ordered that an SFPD internal affairs report regarding Walker, attached to her order, be sealed.
The district attorney did not appeal the order, but Davis attempted to do so. The Court of Appeal appointed counsel to represent Davis, but the district attorney argued in a brief that Davis lacked standing to appeal.
Presiding Justice J. Anthony Kline agreed.
By statute, Kline explained, a defendant may seek post-conviction discovery if sentenced to life imprisonment or death. But the statute is of no benefit to Davis in the appeal because it was the district attorney, not Davis, who sought discovery, Kline said.
The presiding justice elaborated:
“Prior to trial, Davis had the right to seek discovery from Officer Walker’s files if he believed Walker’s credibility was relevant to his defense. However, during the post-judgment stage of his criminal case, Davis does not have a free-floating right to discovery.…Brady imposes disclosure obligations on the prosecution but it does not confer discovery rights on a convicted defendant. Thus, Davis himself had no right to seek post-judgment discovery from Officer Walker’s files. Nor did he make any effort to join in the proceeding initiated by the People. Under these circumstances, the order entered after an in camera review of the confidential file that was conducted solely on behalf of the People did not affect Davis’s substantial rights. “
The case is People v. Davis, 14 S.O.S. 2935.
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