Professor Cheryl Bader, a former Assistant US Attorney, provides her legal opinion to NBC New York on the discovery process in a high profile case that has resurfaced from the late 1990’s involving a violent armored car robbery.
After spending more than two decades in prison, a Queens felon says he has obtained a document that could help exonerate him. Robert Majors, one of three men found guilty in a violent 1997 armored car robbery, says prosecutors cheated during his two trials — by hiding a hand-written statement from a police informant who named an alternate suspect.
The Queens District Attorney’s Office insists prosecutors freely turned the document over. Now, the disputed discovery process sets up a high-stakes court battle to be decided by Judge John Latella, the man who originally found Majors guilty in a bench trial and sentenced him to prison for what amounted to a life sentence.
Former prosecutors told the I-Team, generally speaking, a statement like the one naming “Rasheed” should be turned over to defense attorneys.
“In looking at the statement, I would have turned that over,” said Professor Cheryl Bader, a former Assistant US Attorney who now teaches a criminal defense clinic at Fordham Law School. Bader said the dispute over whether the evidence was – or was not – shared in the Majors case may be a good argument for what’s known as “open file” discovery, a type of information exchange where prosecutors give defense lawyers access to entire investigative files, rather than providing evidence in a piecemeal fashion.
“Open file discovery would definitely put defense attorneys on a more level playing field with the prosecutor,” Bader said.