Past Wednesday, defense attorney Kathleen Cannon accused Vista-based prosecutors of repeatedly withholding evidence that could favor accused criminals, an action that could potentially jeopardize a defendant’s right to a fair trial. Cannon argued to Superior Court Judge Harry Elias that there has been “a continuing pattern of failure” by prosecutors to supply evidence that could be important to the defense.
Cannon’s statements came at the start of a hearing regarding fingerprint evidence in a low-level criminal case, the theft of two bicycles. Defense attorneys want the case dismissed, arguing that the prosecutor hadn’t told them that a fingerprint on a pawn ticket was not clear enough to match to their client. The larger question Cannon raised in court is the allegedly systemic problem of a failure to turn over evidence, which prosecutors are required to do. “This is a problem, and that is the context in which this case is before you,” Cannon told the judge, and cited two other recent instances of alleged failure to provide evidence.
Technically, this battle is over one fingerprint. But the public defender’s office used its complaint about fingerprint evidence in the theft case to highlight its claims of systemic problems. In court, Cannon pointed to two other recent cases in which she said prosecutors violated the rules. In a gang rape case, the prosecutor did not give the victim’s statements to defense attorneys. And in another case, the prosecution is alleged to have failed to turn over a bloody knife that could have worked in favor of the defense.
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