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Massachusetts Criminal Defense Law: What is Witholding Exculpatory Evidence? Do Prosecutors Have an Obligation to Disclose Evidence?

Recently Prosecutors in the high profile criminal case against Karen Read were challenged by the defense on an important standard of evidence that falls under the “Brady Rule,” in which prosecutors have to disclose exculpatory evidence in their indictment.

Many indictments are successful, but indictments are closed proceedings in which the accused and their attorney can’t be present. If you know you are being indicted, it is an intimidating procedure to consider. What evidence can prosecutors bring? What if the indictment isn’t fair? Even if your indictment is successful it’s important to remember that it still represents the hearing of evidence against you, and you still have the right to challenge this evidence.

What is the Brady Rule? What is a Brady Disclosure?

In Brady v. Maryland, the US Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors had to disclose any material, exculpatory evidence in their possession to the defense, a legal standard that is known as the Brady rule. (Exculpatory evidence is evidence favorable to the defendant in a criminal trial that exonerates or tends to exonerate the defendant of guilt.) A Brady disclosure is evidence that is material to either guilt or punishment and that could be used to exonerate the defendant. Under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and art. 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights a prosecutor must disclose evidence that could help the defendant’s case.

What is Exculpatory Evidence?

Exculpatory evidence is evidence that is favorable to the defense. There are different kinds of evidence that may be relevant to a defendant’s case. The evidence could include the credibility of witnesses. It could also include a record of deception on the part of a law enforcement officer involved in the case. Lists of officers who have a history of misconduct are known as Brady lists.

Indictments are serious proceedings. If you have been indicted and are facing a criminal trial, you may think that you have no recourse but to stand trial, even if you are questioning the evidence against you. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be vigilant for any omissions of evidence that could materially affect your case or any misrepresentations of the credibility of witnesses. Any of these could amount to a Brady violation, which should not go unchallenged. 

At Dhar Law, LLP, we build a thorough, hard-hitting defense that leaves no stone unturned. We employ decades of experience defending serious criminal cases in state and federal courts to ensure that your right to due process is not violated. If you or someone you know is facing an indictment and a criminal trial, please contact our experienced team of Boston criminal defense attorneys at 617-880-6155 to learn more.


Have you or a family member been charged or arrested? It’s important not to make mistakes early on in your case. Download our PDF on the top 3 things to do to help your defense or if you have been arrested by the State Police or FBI or you are the subject of an FBI Arrest Warrant.

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Heading up the firm, Vikas Dhar is widely recognized as a leader in the New England legal community. An accomplished business litigator and a “Top 40 Under 40” criminal defense attorney, he has also been honored as a New England Super Lawyer/Rising Star in the area of White-Collar Criminal Defense for each of the past six years by Boston Magazine.

I have the power and the skill to be able to save people from themselves. I can be your guide during the darkness. I can hold your hand and navigate you out of the darkness into the light.

— Vikas Dhar
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