Hennepin County Attorney's Office announces steps to ensure fair trials, conviction integrity
Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty today announced several new measures the office has put in place to ensure the office is fulfilling its obligations under the United States and Minnesota Constitutions. These legal requirements, often referred to as “Brady/Giglio,” help ensure fair trials and support conviction integrity.
Throughout the process of developing these measures, the office has engaged extensively with Hennepin County law enforcement agencies and their city attorneys to collaboratively develop new procedures to conform with Brady/Giglio requirements.
“We represent the State and people of Minnesota,” Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty said. “While the law gives our office the significant power to prosecute criminal conduct and restrict freedom, the law also imposes on us significant responsibilities to ensure defendants receive fair trials. The measures we have put in place will ensure compliance with those responsibilities and will ultimately lead to greater trust in the process and respect for the outcomes of these cases.
“I am grateful to law enforcement agencies across the county for their collaboration on these issues and their deep commitment to ensuring these legal obligations are fulfilled.”
Moriarty today announced seven new measures that have been implemented:
1. Established the Division of Professional Standards.
Earlier this year, Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty established the Division of Professional Standards as a new division within the County Attorney’s Office. The division is responsible for internal training and ensuring the office is fulfilling its legal responsibilities in criminal cases. The director of professional standards is Clare Diegel.
2. Created a new process to ensure the office is disclosing Brady/Giglio information that is considered non-public under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in the case Brady v. Maryland, explained that the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires the government to disclose all potentially “exculpatory” evidence to the defense prior to trial. “Exculpatory” means the evidence could be viewed as increasing the probability of the defendant’s innocence. In another case, Giglio v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court said that a prosecutor’s Brady obligation also applies to “impeachment” evidence, which is evidence that would cast doubt on the credibility of a witness. Neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor other legal and ethical rules governing disclosure in criminal cases distinguish between non-public and public data under the MGDPA. However, as the office implements the new process, additional practices have been put in place to ensure non-public data is protected by judicial order from improper dissemination.
3. Revised the categories of conduct that may qualify as Brady/Giglio
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office reviewed case law, policies of prosecutorial offices across the country and federally, and academic research to determine what categories of conduct should be considered potential Brady/Giglio. Relying on this research, the office expanded the categories of conduct that may qualify as Brady/Giglio.
4. Created an interim Brady/Giglio process for professional witnesses (e.g. law enforcement officers) that relies on established law.
This process remains interim as the office continues to work with Hennepin County law enforcement agencies and their city attorneys on a permanent policy and new procedures to ensure the office obtains timely and accurate information to comply with Brady/Giglio. The office has provided training on the process and explained the legal obligations that make this new process necessary. The process requires the office to request and review public and non-public disciplinary data for peace officers.
5. Provided Brady/Giglio training for attorneys.
The office also provided step-by-step instructions to help attorneys ensure they are fulfilling their obligations as licensed attorneys and prosecutors under the Brady/Giglio laws.
6. Hired an attorney and paralegal to exclusively focus on compliance with these requirements.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office recently hired Siara Melius, an attorney with deep experience and expertise on these issues, to focus on ensuring compliance with these requirements. Melius previously held a similar position with the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office. The office has also hired Heather Mundt, a paralegal with a background in civil rights, to support the office’s efforts to acquire and access Brady/Giglio information in a timely manner.
7. Created a judicial orders bank.
Hennepin County judges regularly issue orders related to the credibility of witnesses, the propriety of the conduct of witnesses, and the County Attorney’s Office’s legal obligations. The office now has a system for tracking those orders and ensuring attorneys across the office have knowledge of those orders. Previously, no such system existed. The bank also keeps law enforcement partners up to date on litigation trends and helps identify areas for additional training.
“These steps are just the beginning,” Moriarty said. “We have had excellent engagement with police chiefs and city attorneys across the county throughout this process and we will continue that work. The people must have confidence in the fairness of the legal system and compliance with Brady/Giglio requirements is an important part of building that confidence.”