I have a fundamental problem with discovery in Tennessee criminal cases. Discovery is the process in which each side of the lawsuit or criminal case learns what evidence each side has available. In Tennessee civil cases , one can use all types of discovery tools to learn what the other side has to defend or prosecute the case.Criminal defendants are very limited in what they can learn.
Here’s an example . I tried impersonation of a licensed professional charge recently. I called the main witness to speak with her about the case. I was very nice and explained why I wanted to speak with her.She refused.In a civil case , I could have taken her deposition and she would have had to answer my questions. In Tennessee , civil cases you can ask about anything .When your freedom is at stake , a criminal defendant is limited in scope of what they are entitled to receive.
Rule 16 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure provides what the Government has to provide:
- The Defendant’s Oral Statement.
- Defendant’s Written or Recorded Statement.
- The Codefendants Discovery.
- Defendant’s Prior Record.
- Certain Documents and Objects
- Reports of Examinations and Tests.
Here’s my problem. Discovery does not apply in General Sessions Court by Tennessee case law. Most driving under the influence cases are handled in General Sessions court without discovery. Secondly , criminal defense lawyers should at least be able to interview law enforcement officers. Money verses the rights of the criminally accused . When your talking about money , you get more information.
In the next couple of posts , I will cover documents and tests during discovery.