Trial Administration • Motion for Mistrial • Exculpatory Evidence • Inconclusive Fingerprint Report

Commonwealth v. Antidormi, PICS Case No. 14-0129 (Pa. Super. Jan. 23, 2014) Wecht, J. (40 pages).

The trial court did not err in denying defendant’s request for mistrial due to the fact that the Commonwealth failed to disclose a fingerprint report since the revelation of the inconclusive fingerprinting report, without more, would not have affected the verdict. Affirmed.

Defendant was arrested after an incident on July 21, 2011 in Cherry Ridge Township. That morning, defendant and three other occupants of an automobile were driving in the area and shooting firearms out of the vehicle. A bullet was fired into a residence on Mill Brook Road.

Thereafter, local residents blockaded the road and forced the joyriders to abandon their vehicle and flee on foot. Firearms used in the incident were recovered near the abandoned vehicle. A jury found defendant guilty of persons not to possess/use firearms.

After this guilty verdict, defendant entered a guilty plea to charges of recklessly endangering another person and criminal mischief/damage to property. Defendant appealed from his judgment of sentence.

Defendant argued that the trial court erred in denying his request for mistrial due to the fact that the Commonwealth failed to disclose a potentially exculpatory fingerprint report. According to defendant, the commonwealth violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by failing to disclose the results of a fingerprint analysis performed on the guns at issue.

The commonwealth’s failure to disclose the fingerprint report was prejudicial error because defendant could have used the report to argue that he never touched the weapons, defendant argued. The commonwealth conceded that the fingerprint report was withheld, but challenged the report’s exculpatory value.

The Superior Court explained that in Brady, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the “suppression by the prosecution of favorable evidence to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.”

In order to establish a Brady violation, a defendant must demonstrate that the evidence was suppressed by the commonwealth, either willfully or inadvertently, the evidence was favorable to the defendant and the evidence was material, in that its omission resulted in prejudice to the defendant.

The court reasoned that, even assuming the fingerprint report was exculpatory and favorable to defendant, defendant could not establish that the report’s late disclosure prejudiced the outcome of the trial. The fingerprint report stated that “[n]o identifiable fingerprints were developed on any of the items.”