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Exculpatory evidence is
evidence Evidence for a proposition is what supports this proposition. It is usually understood as an indication that the supported proposition is true. What role evidence plays and how it is conceived varies from field to field. In epistemology, evidence ...
favorable to the
defendant In court proceedings, a defendant is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary fi ...
in a
criminal trial Criminal procedure is the adjudication Adjudication is the legal process by which an arbitration, arbiter or judge reviews evidence (law), evidence and argumentation, including legal reasoning set forth by opposing parties or litigants, to come ...
that exonerates or tends to exonerate the defendant of
guilt Guilt may refer to: *Guilt (emotion), an emotion that occurs when a person feels that they have violated a moral standard *Culpability, a legal term *Guilt (law), a legal term *GUILT, or Gangliated Utrophin Immuno Latency Toxin, antagonistic parasi ...
. It is the opposite of inculpatory evidence, which tends to present guilt. In many countries, including the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
,
police The police are a Law enforcement organization, constituted body of Law enforcement officer, persons empowered by a State (polity), state, with the aim to law enforcement, enforce the law, to ensure the safety, health and possessions of citize ...

police
and
prosecutors A prosecutor is a legal representative of the prosecution in countries with either the common law adversarial system or the Civil law (legal system), civil law inquisitorial system. The prosecution is the legal party responsible for presenting the ...
are required to disclose to the defendant exculpatory evidence they possess before the
defendant In court proceedings, a defendant is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary fi ...
enters a plea (guilty or not guilty). In some countries such as Germany, the prosecution has to actively search for both exculpatory and inculpatory circumstances and evidence before filing of action. Per the ''
Brady v. Maryland ''Brady v. Maryland'', 373 U.S. 83 (1963), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case that established that the prosecution must turn over all evidence Evidence, broadly construed, is anything presented in support of an assertion, becau ...
'' decision, prosecutors in the United States have a duty to disclose exculpatory evidence even if not requested to do so. While the prosecution is not required to search for exculpatory evidence and must disclose only the evidence in its possession, custody, or control, the prosecution's duty is to disclose all information known to any member of its team, e.g., police, investigators, crime labs, et cetera. In ''Brady v. Maryland'', the
U.S. Supreme Court The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States of America The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a coun ...

U.S. Supreme Court
held that such a requirement follows from constitutional
due process Due process is the legal requirement that the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspa ...
and is consistent with the prosecutor's duty to seek justice. The ''Brady'' doctrine is a pretrial discovery rule that was established by the United States Supreme Court in ''Brady v. Maryland'' (1963). The rule requires that the prosecution must turn over all exculpatory evidence to the
defendant In court proceedings, a defendant is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary fi ...
in a
criminal case Criminal law is the body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its env ...
. Exculpatory
evidence Evidence for a proposition In logic and linguistics, a proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence (linguistics), sentence. In philosophy, "Meaning (philosophy), meaning" is understood to be a non-linguistic entity which is shared by a ...

evidence
is evidence that might exonerate the defendant.


Illustration

A victim is
murder Murder is the unlawful killing of another human without justification (jurisprudence), justification or valid excuse (legal), excuse, especially the unlawful killing of another human with malice aforethought. ("The killing of another person w ...

murder
ed by stabbing and a
suspect In law enforcement jargon, a suspect is a known person accused or suspected of committing a crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal ...

suspect
is arrested for the murder. Evidence includes a knife covered with blood found near the victim and the accused found covered in blood at the murder scene. During the investigation, the police interview a witness claiming to have seen the stabbing. The witness makes a statement to the police that another unidentified person committed the crime, not the accused. The witness's statement is exculpatory evidence as it introduces reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused. The police either do not believe the witness's account or else find the witness unreliable and choose not to follow up on the lead. The prosecutor is obliged to inform the accused and his or her attorney of the witness's statement even though the police doubt the witness's version of events. Failure to do so would provide grounds for a motion to dismiss the charges or an appeal of a subsequent guilty verdict.


See also

* ''Brady'' disclosure *'' Giglio v. United States'' *'' R v Stinchcombe''


References

Criminal law {{CatAutoTOC Public law Common law, Criminal law Law by issue, Criminal law Criminal justice, Law Law by type ...
{{Miscarriage of Justice