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United States v. White

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 19, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DEMETRIUS S. WHITE, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

          Thomas M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant’s Motion to Compel Discovery Material (ECF No. 13), Defendant’s Supplemental Motion to Compel Discovery Material (ECF No. 18), and the Government’s Opposition to Motion to Compel (ECF No. 19). For the reasons stated below, Defendant’s motions are DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         For the purpose of determining the issues presented, the Court assumes the following facts that are taken from the U.S. Park Police Incident Record attached to the Government’s Opposition (ECF No. 19-1). On March 22, 2015, at approximately 3:16 a.m., U.S. Park Police Officer Sarah Cressman was on the scene of a motor vehicle accident on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Officers on the scene had shut down the right travel lane of the Parkway with marked police cruisers. While the right lane was shut down, Officer Cressman observed a vehicle drive straight at one of those cruisers. Officer Cressman yelled and waved to stop the vehicle. Once the vehicle stopped, Officer Cressman approached it. Defendant was the driver. He appeared to be disoriented, and an odor of alcohol was emanating from the vehicle. Defendant admitted to Officer Cressman that he had two drinks that night. Officer Cressman asked Defendant to step out of the vehicle. When he did, he stumbled and had difficulty walking. Officer Cressman noticed that Defendant’s eyes were red, watery, and bloodshot. She also noticed a strong odor of alcohol coming from Defendant’s person. Officer Cressman placed Defendant under arrest after he performed poorly on two field sobriety tests. Defendant was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more, and unsafe operation. Defendant disputes the charges and the basis for the stop.

         Defendant requests an order compelling the Government to produce the following documents: (1) a list of all police officers present at the scene of the accident; (2) any field notes taken by these officers; (3) all computer assisted dispatch (“CAD”) records related to the accident; and (4) the accident report. Defendant avers that the requested documents are either in the Government’s possession or readily available to the Government, and are discoverable under Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(1)(E)(i) because they are material to preparing his defense.[1] The Government responds that the requested documents are not within its possession, custody, or control and that, significantly, even if they were, they do not fall within the scope of Rule 16 because they fail to satisfy the materiality requirement of that rule.

         DISCUSSION

         It is widely recognized that discovery in federal criminal cases is much more limited than discovery in federal civil cases. See Degen v. United States, 517 U.S. 820, 825-26, 116 S.Ct. 1777, 1781-82 (1996) (contrasting civil and criminal discovery, noting that “[a] criminal defendant is entitled to rather limited discovery”); United States v. Warshak, 631 F.3d 266, 275 (6th Cir. 2010) (“The discovery afforded by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16 is limited to the evidence referred to in its express provisions . . . .”); United States v. Pope, 613 F.3d 1255, 1259-60 (10th Cir. 2010) (“After all, unlike their civil counterparts, criminal proceedings have no extensive discovery . . . requiring both sides to lay their evidentiary cards on the table before trial.”); Sock v. Trombley, No. 05-CV-70379-DT, 2006 WL 2711506, at *21 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 20, 2006), aff’d, 289 F. App’x 107 (6th Cir. 2008). Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(1)(E) provides:

(E) Documents and Objects. Upon a defendant’s request, the government must permit the defendant to inspect and to copy or photograph books, papers, documents, data, photographs, tangible objects, buildings or places, or copies or portions of any of these items, if the item is within the government’s possession, custody, or control and:
(i) the item is material to preparing the defense;
(ii) the government intends to use the item in its case-in-chief at trial; or
(iii) the item was obtained from or belongs to the defendant.

         In support of his position, Defendant relies on the opinions of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Marshall, 132 F.3d 63 (D.C. Cir. 1998), and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Caro, 597 F.3d 608 (4th Cir. 2010). In Marshall, the defendant, Marlon Marshall, was convicted of distributing more than five grams of crack cocaine. One of the facts that the government sought to prove at trial was that Marshall was an acquaintance of Sabrina Shorter. The government sought to introduce jail visitation records into evidence showing that Ms. Shorter visited Marshall while he was incarcerated awaiting trial. These records were not produced by the government before trial. Marshall objected on the ground that the jail visitation records had not been timely disclosed as required by Fed. R. Crim. P. 16. Although the district court ruled that the jail visitation records were material to the preparation of Marshall’s defense, and thus potentially subject to disclosure under Rule 16, it held that Marshall was not prejudiced by the late disclosure of the records, and declined to exclude them. Marshall appealed. On appeal, the D.C. Circuit agreed that the records were material to the preparation of Marshall’s defense under Rule 16. It rejected the government’s argument that evidence must be helpful to the defendant or exculpatory for it to be “material” under Rule 16. The appellate court interpreted the materiality requirement of Rule 16 more broadly. It observed that the government must disclose Rule 16 evidence only if such evidence “enable[s] the defendant significantly to alter the quantum of proof in his favor.” Marshall, 132 F.3d at 68 (alteration in original) (quoting United States v. Graham, 83 F.3d 1466, 1474 (D.C. Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 1132, 117 S.Ct. 993 (1997)). The court stated:

But this language does not mean that inculpatory evidence may never be material. To the contrary, a defendant in possession of such evidence may “alter the quantum of proof in his favor” in several ways: by preparing a strategy to confront the damaging evidence at trial; by conducting an investigation to attempt to discredit that evidence; or by not presenting a defense which is undercut by such evidence.

Id. It also noted language from it prior opinion in United States v. Lloyd, 992 F.2d 348, 351 (D.C. Cir. 1993), where it said that evidence is material under Rule 16 “as long as there is a strong indication that it will ‘play an important role in uncovering admissible evidence, aiding witness preparation, corroborating testimony, or assisting impeachment or rebuttal.’” Although the D.C. Circuit agreed with the district court and also found that the jail visitation records were material to the preparation of Marshall’s defense under Rule 16, it affirmed his conviction, holding that, to the extent the government’s Rule 16 violation caused Marshall any prejudice, the district court ...


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