State Bar Criminal Justice Section Chair Marvin Schechter should be commended for publicly stating a simple but uncomfortable truth about the state and federal criminal justice system: Prosecutors all too frequently violate defendants’ right to receive favorable information. The district attorneys association’s condemnation of Schechter’s statement (“D.A.s Challenge Claim by Bar Section Head They Undermine Brady,” NYLJ, July 30) demonstrates that many prosecutors cannot even admit their failure to adopt policies to prevent violating the rights of the accused. As the D.A.s should know, the state bar’s Task Force on Wrongful Convictions found that Brady violations are a continuing problem, denying defendants a fair opportunity to organize and present a defense. That is why the state bar endorsed A.4879/S.3276 and one major reason why broad discovery reform is required and is sought by our association, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Innocence Project, the Legal Aid Society, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, among others. Predictably, these needed reforms are resisted by the district attorneys association.
We are disappointed that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., himself a former defense attorney, would express disappointment that state bar President Seymour James did not respond to his complaints with laudatory comments for prosecutors. At least one of New York’s district attorneys, Charles J. Hynes, understands the issue. He has stated that “disclosure is not only an ethical and legal obligation, it is a moral imperative.”