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An interesting development in New York Rules of Discovery . . .

“Blindfold” Off: New York Overhauls Pretrial Evidence Rules - By BETH SCHWARTZAPFEL

Prosecutors will be required to turn over information to the defense much earlier in a criminal case, among other changes.

New York state lawmakers have passed a major overhaul of the laws that dictate what evidence must be turned over to defendants facing criminal charges. The new rules require that prosecutors share this evidence, known as discovery, at the earliest stages of a case. If a defendant facing felony charges is offered a plea deal, information must be shared at least three days before his deadline to accept.

The changes “take New York from being dead last in discovery openness to being in the vanguard nationally,” says Jennifer Laurin, a University of Texas law professor who studies discovery laws.

In the discovery process, prosecutors reveal the evidence they have gathered, including the names and statements of witnesses to the crime. As The Marshall Project reported in 2017 in partnership with the New York Times, the rules in New York have long been some of the most restrictive in the nation, allowing prosecutors to withhold this information until just before trial.

Because so few cases go to trial—more than 98 percent of felony arrests that end in convictions occur through a guilty plea—prosecutors were almost always allowed to withhold the information indefinitely. Critics say these “blindfold laws” put defendants at an unfair disadvantage, forcing them to negotiate plea deals and prepare for trial without knowing important evidence against them.