Ohio's Open Discovery
Cuyahoga County Local Rule Passes
'MAJOR VICTORY FOR JUSTICE'
The Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers secured a historical decision in Cuyahoga County on November 12, 2008. After decades of heated debate, the judges of the Common Pleas Court voted on Local Rule 23.1 which mandates that prosecutors share all evidence for and against an accused citizen in criminal matters. Joined by several bar associations and individuals across Ohio, the OACDL was instrumental in bringing this important issue to resolution. Prior to the passage of this vote, prosecutors were permitted to withhold evidence including police reports and witness statements. As a result of this vote, prosecutors must now share all evidence in their possession or under their control with defendant's and their counsel.
The OACDL recognizes that this will likely be the first of many similar votes but individual liberty is at stake. Accordingly, this effort will not cease until all individuals accused of a crime in Ohio are afforded fair process. Supporters of Local Rule 23.1 firmly believe that this rule will minimize wrongful convictions, reduce unnecessary taxpayer money by eliminating unnecessary delay and/or trials and instill public confidence in the criminal justice system. Additionally, crime victims and witnesses will be protected as Rule 23.1 provides a meaningful mechanism to protect their identity when harm is perceived.
Several jurisdictions across Ohio and the United States of America have already passed rules calling for "Open Discovery" or have simply engaged in such a practice. In both scenarios, these jurisdictions have only been met with benefit and overall success. There is a clear trend toward the adoption of "Open Discovery" practices as communities continue to witness miscarriages of justice caused by keeping evidence from the accused. This step by the Cuyahoga County judges should serve as a model to other counties across this great state. The OACDL will continue to lead this fight until conclusion.