Note – Exposing Misconduct: Fixing the California Supreme Court’s Limitation of Post-Conviction Discovery

Jasmine Berndt

Volume 63, Issue 3, 927-952

Following the Los Angeles Rampart Scandal, a concerned California legislature created post-conviction procedures intended to help wrongfully convicted people challenge convictions resulting from government misconduct. One of these mechanisms was California Penal Code section 1054.9, which allowed defendantpetitioners attacking sentences of death or life without parole to discover evidence to which they would have been entitled at trial upon a minimal showing. After years of broadly interpreting the statute, the California Supreme Court reversed direction with its decision in Barnett v. Superior Court, where it created a new hurdle for those seeking discovery: Defendant-petitioners must now show a reasonable basis for believing the requested discovery actually exists. This Note questions the bases for the Barnett decision’s narrowing of post-conviction discovery and considers how this case will affect defendant-petitioners’ ability to discover evidence of government misconduct in the future. In order to better identify and present claims of government misconduct, this Note looks to North Carolina’s open-file discovery statute as inspiration for new California legislation.

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