Skip to content

The Curious Double Standard for Criminal Pretrial Actions in Georgia

by merlin on August 8th, 2014
  • Sumo

Something which became apparent during the course of research on a pending matter, but which is of significant note (and I am specifically requesting any and all readers that might be able to shed factual light on the justification for this by comment on this site) is the remarkable double-standard that applies in criminal matters concerning aggravation and mitigation of sentences in Georgia.

Section 17-16-5 of the Official Code of Georgia governs the use of an alibi (the “I was someplace else/some other dude done it” defense), and sets down some pretty strict rules for use of an alibi in a criminal case.  A party needs to provide the State with enough biographical information on, and a head start for tracking down ways to disprove (no later than TEN days after Arraignment, upon written demand of alibi info by the State), the witness or witnesses that can establish the alibi.  However, when it comes to the very proof on which the charges depend, the State has a minimum of FIVE days before THE TRIAL ITSELF to provide that proof, according to Section 17-16-4, the statute that governs felony Discovery.

The two statutes are below, so you can see for yourselves:

17-16-4, first.  As you can see, this is a pretty comprehensive Discovery statute, governing everything from pretrial Discovery to presentencing matters:

(a) (1) The prosecuting attorney shall, no later than ten days prior to trial, or at such time as the court orders, disclose to the defendant and make available for inspection, copying, or photographing any relevant written or recorded statements made by the defendant, or copies thereof, within the possession, custody, or control of the state or prosecution and that portion of any written record containing the substance of any relevant oral statement made by the defendant, whether before or after arrest, in response to interrogation by any person then known to the defendant to be a law enforcement officer or member of the prosecuting attorney’s staff. The prosecuting attorney shall also disclose to the defendant the substance of any other relevant oral statement made by the defendant, before or after arrest, in response to interrogation by any person then known by the defendant to be a law enforcement officer or member of the prosecuting attorney’s staff if the state intends to use that statement at trial. The prosecuting attorney shall also disclose to the defendant the substance of any other relevant written or oral statement made by the defendant while in custody, whether or not in response to interrogation. Statements of coconspirators that are attributable to the defendant and arguably admissible against the defendant at trial also shall be disclosed under this Code section. Where the defendant is a corporation, partnership, association, or labor union, the court may grant the defendant, upon its motion, discovery of any similar such statement of any witness who was:

(A) At the time of the statement, so situated as an officer or employee as to have been legally able to bind the defendant in respect to conduct constituting the offense; or

(B) At the time of the offense, personally involved in the alleged conduct constituting the offense and so situated as an officer or employee as to have been legally able to bind the defendant in respect to that alleged conduct in which the witness was involved.

(2) The prosecuting attorney shall, no later than ten days prior to trial, or as otherwise ordered by the court, furnish to the defendant a copy of the defendant’s Georgia Crime Information Center criminal history, if any, as is within the possession, custody, or control of the state or prosecution. Nothing in this Code section shall affect the provisions of Code Section 17-10-2.

(3) (A) Except as provided in subparagraph (B) of this paragraph, the prosecuting attorney shall, no later than ten days prior to trial, or as otherwise ordered by the court, permit the defendant at a time agreed to by the parties or ordered by the court to inspect and copy or photograph books, papers, documents, photographs, tangible objects, audio and visual tapes, films and recordings, or copies or portions thereof and to inspect and photograph buildings or places which are within the possession, custody, or control of the state or prosecution and are intended for use by the prosecuting attorney as evidence in the prosecution’s case-in-chief or rebuttal at the trial or were obtained from or belong to the defendant. Evidence that is within the possession, custody, or control of the Forensic Sciences Division of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation or other laboratory for the purpose of testing and analysis may be examined, tested, and analyzed at the facility where the evidence is being held pursuant to reasonable rules and regulations adopted by the Forensic Sciences Division of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation or the laboratory where the evidence is being held.

(B) With respect to any books, papers, documents, photographs, tangible objects, audio and visual tapes, films and recordings, or copies or portions thereof which are within the possession, custody, or control of the state or prosecution and are intended for use by the prosecuting attorney as evidence in the prosecution’s case-in-chief or rebuttal at the trial of any violation of Part 2 of Article 3 of Chapter 12 of Title 16, such evidence shall, no later than ten days prior to trial, or as otherwise ordered by the court, be allowed to be inspected by the defendant but shall not be allowed to be copied.

(4) The prosecuting attorney shall, no later than ten days prior to trial, or as otherwise ordered by the court, permit the defendant at a time agreed to by the parties or ordered by the court to inspect and copy or photograph a report of any physical or mental examinations and of scientific tests or experiments, including a summary of the basis for the expert opinion rendered in the report, or copies thereof, if the state intends to introduce in evidence in its case-in-chief or in rebuttal the results of the physical or mental examination or scientific test or experiment. If the report is oral or partially oral, the prosecuting attorney shall reduce all relevant and material oral portions of such report to writing and shall serve opposing counsel with such portions no later than ten days prior to trial. Nothing in this Code section shall require the disclosure of any other material, note, or memorandum relating to the psychiatric or psychological treatment or therapy of any victim or witness.

(5) The prosecuting attorney shall, no later than ten days prior to trial, or at such time as the court orders but in no event later than the beginning of the trial, provide the defendant with notice of any evidence in aggravation of punishment that the state intends to introduce in sentencing.

(b) (1) The defendant within ten days of timely compliance by the prosecuting attorney but no later than five days prior to trial, or as otherwise ordered by the court, shall permit the prosecuting attorney at a time agreed to by the parties or as ordered by the court to inspect and copy or photograph books, papers, documents, photographs, tangible objects, audio and visual tapes, films and recordings, or copies or portions thereof and to inspect and photograph buildings or places, which are within the possession, custody, or control of the defendant and which the defendant intends to introduce as evidence in the defense’s case-in-chief or rebuttal at the trial.

(2) The defendant shall within ten days of timely compliance by the prosecuting attorney but no later than five days prior to trial, or as otherwise ordered by the court, permit the prosecuting attorney at a time agreed to by the parties or as ordered by the court to inspect and copy or photograph a report of any physical or mental examinations and of scientific tests or experiments, including a summary of the basis for the expert opinion rendered in the report, or copies thereof, if the defendant intends to introduce in evidence in the defense’s case-in-chief or rebuttal the results of the physical or mental examination or scientific test or experiment. If the report is oral or partially oral, the defendant shall reduce all relevant and material oral portions of such report to writing and shall serve opposing counsel with such portions no later than five days prior to trial. Nothing in this Code section shall require the disclosure of any other material, note, or memorandum relating to the psychiatric or psychological treatment or therapy of any defendant or witness.

(3) (A) The defendant shall, no later than the announcement of the verdict of the jury or if the defendant has waived a jury trial at the time the verdict is published by the court, serve upon the prosecuting attorney all books, papers, documents, photographs, tangible objects, audio and visual tapes, films and recordings, or copies or portions thereof and to inspect and photograph buildings or places which are within the possession, custody, or control of the defendant and which the defendant intends to introduce as evidence in the presentence hearing.

(B) The defendant shall, no later than the announcement of the verdict of the jury or if the defendant has waived a jury trial at the time the verdict is published by the court, serve upon the prosecuting attorney all reports of any physical or mental examinations and scientific tests or experiments, including a summary of the basis for the expert opinions rendered in the reports, or copies thereof, if the defendant intends to introduce in evidence in the presentence hearing the results of the physical or mental examination or scientific test or experiment. If the report is oral or partially oral, the defendant shall reduce all relevant and material oral portions of such report to writing and shall serve opposing counsel with such portions.

(C) The defendant shall, no later than five days before the trial commences, serve upon the prosecuting attorney a list of witnesses that the defendant intends to call as a witness in the presentence hearing. No later than the announcement of the verdict of the jury or if the defendant has waived a jury trial at the time the verdict is published by the court, the defendant shall produce for the opposing party any statement of such witnesses that is in the possession, custody, or control of the defendants or the defendant’s counsel that relates to the subject matter of the testimony of such witnesses unless such statement is protected from disclosure by the privilege contained in paragraph (5), (6), (7), or (8) of subsection (a) of Code Section 24-5-501.

(c) If prior to or during trial a party discovers additional evidence or material previously requested or ordered which is subject to discovery or inspection under this article, such party shall promptly notify the other party of the existence of the additional evidence or material and make this additional evidence or material available as provided in this article.

(d) Upon a sufficient showing that a discovery required by this article would create a substantial threat of physical or economic harm to a witness, the court may at any time order that the discovery or inspection be denied, restricted, or deferred or make such other order as is appropriate. Upon motion by a party, the court may permit the party to make such showing, in whole or in part, in the form of a written statement to be inspected by the judge alone. If the court enters an order granting relief following such an ex parte showing, the entire text of the party’s statement shall be sealed and preserved in the records of the court subject to further order of the court and to be made available to the appellate court in the event of an appeal.

(e) Discovery with respect to alibi witnesses shall be as provided for in Code Section 17-16-5.

17-16-5, for comparison:

(a) Upon written demand by the prosecuting attorney within ten days after arraignment, or at such time as the court permits, stating the time, date, and place at which the alleged offense was committed, the defendant shall serve within ten days of the demand of the prosecuting attorney or ten days prior to trial, whichever is later, or as otherwise ordered by the court, upon the prosecuting attorney a written notice of the defendant’s intention to offer a defense of alibi. Such notice by the defendant shall state the specific place or places at which the defendant claims to have been at the time of the alleged offense and the names, addresses, dates of birth, and telephone numbers of the witnesses, if known to the defendant, upon whom the defendant intends to rely to establish such alibi unless previously supplied.

(b) The prosecuting attorney shall serve upon the defendant within five days of the defendant’s written notice but no later than five days before trial, whichever is later, a written notice stating the names, addresses, dates of birth, and telephone numbers of the witnesses, if known to the state, upon whom the state intends to rely to rebut the defendant’s evidence of alibi unless previously supplied.

(c) If prior to or during trial, a party learns of an additional witness whose identity, if known, should have been included in the information furnished under subsection (a) or (b) of this Code section, the party shall promptly notify the other party of the existence and identity of such additional witness.

(d) Upon a showing that a disclosure required by this Code section would create a substantial threat of physical or economic harm to a witness, the court may grant an exception to any of the requirements of subsections (a) through (c) of this Code section.

(e) If the defendant withdraws the notice of intention to rely upon an alibi defense, the notice and intention to rely upon an alibi defense are not admissible. However the prosecuting attorney may offer any other evidence regarding alibi.

Comments are closed.