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Postconviction Discovery

The California Supreme Court today decided Barnett v. Superior Court, resolving some questions regarding California's postconviction discovery statute, Penal Code ยง1054.9. The Court had previously rejected the attack on the statute itself by a couple of trouble makers in People v. Superior Court (Pearson) (2010) 48 Cal.4th 564.

In summary, we conclude that, to be entitled to receive discovery beyond merely recovering items that the prosecutor had provided to defense counsel before trial, defendants must show they have a reasonable basis to believe that the specific materials they seek actually exist. To obviate one concern that petitioner has expressed, we note that a reasonable basis to believe that the prosecution had possessed the materials in the past would also provide a reasonable basis to believe the prosecution still possesses the materials. Petitioner need not make some additional showing that the prosecution still possesses the materials, a showing that would be impossible to make. (However, as we explained in Steele, 1054.9 "imposes no preservation duties that do not otherwise exist." [Steele, supra, 32 Cal.4th at p. 695.].) We disapprove People v. Superior Court (Maury), supra, 145 Cal.App.4th 473, and Curl v. Superior Court, supra, 140 Cal.App.4th 310, to the extent they are inconsistent with this opinion.

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Accordingly, we conclude the prosecution is not required to provide discovery of materials from the out-of-state law enforcement agencies of this case that the prosecution does not itself possess.

Congrats to Ward Campbell and Eric Christoffersen, who mostly won this case.

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