Under Tennessee law, one accused of a crime is entitled to request discovery if your case is in circuit or criminal court . Rule 16 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure only apply in circuit or criminal courts . The rule requires the state to provide certain types of evidence to the defense if requested. A request for discovery does not apply in the general sessions courts where most cases begin.
I don’t know why the Tennessee Supreme Court limited the scope of discovery in Tennessee courts. Here is a recent case study of a aggravated assault case that I recently handled in Rutherford County ,Tennessee . It illustrates the need for discovery in all courts.
I head down to General Sessions Court in Smyrna , Tennessee ready for a preliminary hearing. Based upon my early investigation ,it was a case of credibility of who do you believe . Luckily , a seasoned assistant district attorney was assigned to the case. In discussing the case prior to the hearing , I learned there were some third party witnesses .The assistant district attorney provided a copy of all statements including the Jencks statement of the complaining witnesses. The ADA was not required to give me these statements by rule. I was able to review the statements which changed my mind about the case.
What happened next ? The aggravated assault charge was amended to simple assault. No felony.No jail. The State of Tennessee resolved a case without months of needless litigation because the ADA realized that disclosure of the evidence might be the best route to take.
The takeaway is the state should disclose discovery in any criminal proceeding. I am not suggesting a wholesale discovery request but statements , reports , and videotapes would streamline the process .It probably would lead to a fair criminal justice system.