February 22, 2011

Colorado Supreme Court decision 2-22-11

In Re: People v. Vlassis            Rule 16 and Witness Statements – Mandatory vs. Discretionary Disclosure
Synopsis: An Arapahoe District Court ordered the prosecution to disclose all witness statements contained in any prosecution notes and emails. The trial court made the ruling under the mandatory provisions of Rule 16, Part I(a)(1)(I) – not the discretionary provisions of Rule 16. The prosecution sought a Rule 21 ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court to prohibit the disclosure.
Issue: Does Rule 16, Part I(a)(1)(I), mandate all witness statements contained in notes and emails?
Held: No.
Reasoning: The rule the Court came up with:
Rule: notes and emails created by the prosecution or its staff amount to “nondiscoverable work product.”
Exception: Rule 16, Part I(a)(2) mandates disclosure if the notes or emails contain exculpatory information;
Exception:  Rule 16, Part I(d)(1), if the defense shows the request is reasonable by showing:
(1)  The information is relevant “to the conduct of the defense,” and,
(2)  The defense cannot obtain the statements from any other source. 

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