Brady Violations; What do they mean for Law Enforcement Officers?

Brady Violations; What do they mean for Law Enforcement Officers?

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Brian Humenuk | Author | COPJOT Police Notebooks and Pens
By Brian Humenuk, MS|CJA, COPJOT  
Released on February 23, 2023
Updated on May 3, 2024
4 minute read


In the theatre of criminal justice, the integrity of evidence and the fairness of trials stand as pillars upon which trust in the legal system rests.

Yet, amid the pursuit of justice, instances of prosecutorial misconduct occasionally emerge, casting shadows over the process.

One such shadow is cast by what are known as Brady violations, a term stemming from a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that has significant implications for law enforcement, prosecutors, defendants, and the overall administration of justice.

With Police Reform sweeping the nation in 2022 and 2023 now could be as good as time as ever to talk about the 1967 Supreme Court ruling of Brady vs Maryland and how this decision affects police officers. 

In this article I am going to deep dive into the GIGLIO Brady Violation, uncovering what it is, and what it might mean for law enforcement and it's police officers, sheriff deputies, and state troopers.

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Let's wait no further and dive in to the meat and potatoes of this article.

Brady Violation Origins and Definition

Brady violations find their genesis in the 1963 case of Brady v. Maryland, where the Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors are constitutionally obligated to disclose any evidence favorable to the accused — evidence that might exonerate or mitigate the defendant's culpability.

This ruling, often referred to simply as the "Brady Rule," represents a cornerstone of due process in the American legal system.

A Brady violation occurs when a prosecutor fails to disclose material exculpatory or impeaching evidence to the defense, thereby depriving the accused of a fair trial.

Materiality is key here; evidence is deemed material if there is a reasonable probability that its disclosure would have changed the outcome of the trial. 

Examples and Implications

The breadth of potential Brady violations is vast and varied.

They can range from the deliberate suppression of evidence by prosecutors to inadvertent oversights or negligence in fulfilling disclosure obligations.

Examples of Brady material include witness statements contradicting the prosecution's narrative, forensic evidence undermining the state's case, or deals struck with informants in exchange for testimony.

The consequences of Brady violations are profound and far-reaching.

At their core, they undermine the constitutional guarantee of due process, skewing the balance of power in favor of the prosecution and jeopardizing the fundamental fairness of trials.

Wrongful convictions, eroded public trust, and miscarriages of justice are among the stark outcomes that can result from unchecked Brady violations.

What happens to Police Officers if they lie?

Police Officers when hired raise their right hand and swear to uphold the United States Constitution and among other things always tell the truth and keep their private lives unsullied.

But what happens to police officers who get caught lying? Do they just go on with life and collect a paycheck arresting bad guys, writing reports and protecting and serving? Well, No, but it isn’t as easy as those two letters.

Like many police officers my kids are probably the same as yours. They are curious or investigative about me and the police profession.

When they were small, they wanted to know why my Taser was yellow and what it did. Why I carried handcuffs. Where the bad guys rode in the police car.

Now that they are on the verge of becoming teenagers, I get more thought about questions like what did the bad guy look like, what kind of car was he driving, did you have to testify in court, and do police officers lie?

Until recently I had a hard time telling my two children that sometimes a police officer does tell a lie and does get caught.

At first, I thought that I should protect all police officers and the profession in general.

Now that they were old enough to understand that not all police officers are as perfect as I set them up to believe I decided to talk to them about truthfulness and reputation and what happens if either is compromised.

Back to what happens if police officers lie.

There are a number of consequences including;

> Public trust in that specific officer is diminished.

> Public trust in the law enforcement agency is diminished.

> A person can be convicted of a crime(s) they didn't do.

> The law enforcement can be subject to disciplinary action.

> The law enforcement officer can be subject to decertification by the state Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST)

> The law enforcement officer could be terminated.

> The law enforcement officer could be placed on the GIGLIO Brady List.

> and more such negative action.

Brady Listings for Police Officers

When a police officer is found to have engaged in conduct that raises concerns about their credibility or integrity, they may be placed on what is commonly referred to as a Brady list, GIGLIO Brady List or a Brady index.

This list, identifies officers whose past actions may impact their reliability as witnesses in criminal proceedings.

The criteria for inclusion on a Brady list can vary, but typically, it involves instances of misconduct, dishonesty, or behavior that calls into question an officer's veracity.

This might include instances of perjury, evidence tampering, racial bias, or other forms of malfeasance that undermine the officer's credibility as a witness.

What is a Brady COP or Brady Officer?

A Brady COP or Brady Officer is a slang term used to identify one whom has been discredited by the court for untruthfulness.

A Brady Violation in which case is given to the defense as exculpatory evidence, means that you can no longer testify in court because your testimony could be considered false.

This becomes exculpatory evidence in future criminal proceedings during the discovery phase where the prosecution has a duty to release all evidence that might show that the defendant is innocent. 

Brady Violation and Law Enforcement Consequences

Recent Supreme Court decisions have enforced Brady to include evidence maintained in a police officer’s personnel files. Under Brady, evidence affecting the credibility of the police officer as a witness may be exculpatory evidence and should be given to the defense during discovery.

Evidence that the officer has had in his personnel file a sustained finding of untruthfulness is clearly exculpatory to the defense. Law enforcement executives have responded to these judicial decisions by imposing strict rules, such as a “No Lies” proclamation.

Lying is a subset of the larger category of deception, and deception is undertaken when one intends to dupe others by communicating messages meant to mislead and meant to make the recipients believe what the agent either knows or believes to be untrue.

Deception encompasses not only spoken and written statements but any conduct that conveys a message to the listener.

The most common outcome of a Brady Rule violation is overturning the conviction.

Also, if the prosecution withheld Brady material intentionally or knowingly, they may be subject to sanctions.

The defendant shall have the burden to prove that any withheld information was both material and favorable.

Deceptive Practices

When it comes to deceptive practices there is a caveat. Acknowledging that some deceptive conduct is acceptable helps to define deceptive misconduct.

In the performance of their duties, police officers frequently engage in a significant amount of deceptive conduct that is essential to public safety.

An example of this is walking into an interrogation room with a blank DVD and talking about what might be on that DVD as evidence.

Although lies justified by necessity, lies told in jest, and white lies may be acceptable forms of deception in law enforcement, malicious lies are the true evil of officer misconduct.

Intentional deceptive conduct can include deceptive action in a formal setting, failure to bring forward information, or creation of false evidence.

The No Lies rule causes managers to deem that Brady has taken their discretion away on the cases that fall outside the justified or excusable categories.

Never let a lie be the deciding factor in a case for many reasons. The two most important reasons are the lie will get figured out during an appeal and the lie will get you Brady listed from future testimony.

Be Truthful all the time, every time!

The proper thing to do in all cases that are borderline or weak is to tell the truth even if it sets a guilty party free.

They will eventually re-offend and get caught possibly with more concrete evidence. When you do this you also make an investment in your character and integrity in which judges, defense attorney's and prosecutors will take notice and remember.

I talk about the why a lot in my profession. I feel strongly that police officers coming on the job are in of the understanding that you tell the truth all the time and if you don’t you will be in trouble.

I believe that most police officers are not given the ‘why” that is. We should be teaching new officers about the Brady decision and how that decision might affect them more than just “they will be in trouble”.

About the Author

Brian Humenuk isn't just an entrepreneur in eCommerce, he is also an informed leader whose experience provides followers and visitors with a look into current and past police issues making headlines in the United States.

Brian has earned three degrees in Criminal Justice with the last, a Masters of Science in Criminal Justice Administration.

Brian extends his training, education, and experience to the officers just now getting into the field so that they may become more informed police officers and stay clear of police misconduct and corruption. 

You can find out more about Brian and the COPJOT story on the ABOUT US page.

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