Destruction of evidence case may be heard by the US Supreme Court helping define when due process is violated by destroyed exculpatory evidence by the police

In the case of Earley v. New Jersey, the defendant has asked the United States Supreme Court to address the issue of the standard to be applied when the police destroy evidence.

The leading case from the United States Supreme Court addressing this issue is Arizona v. Youngblood.  In that case, the United States Supreme Court held that the State violates a defendant’s due process rights when the police destroy potentially exculpatory evidence and the defendant can show bad faith on the part of the police.  Under this standard, the meaning of bad faith has been left to individual courts to define.

There are varying standards Courts have applied:

  1. Malicious intent
  2. That the police knew of the potentially exculpatory evidence
  3. More flexible standard that encompasses proof of the police departments’ recklessness, gross negligence or other severe misconduct.

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In the case arising out of New Jersey, the trial court judge found that the police acted with a pattern of cavalierly disregarding its evidence preservation obligations and lacked a policy for the destruction of evidence.  On appeal, New Jersey reversed the decision of the district court judge finding that the police had not acted with official animus or conscious intent to suppress evidence.

In the Earley case, the defendant was charged with murder and had as his defense Alibi.  Alibi is the term the law applies to a defense when a defendant claims he did not commit the crime because he was in another location.

In this case, the police department obtained surveillance video but did not preserve all of the video evidence; the defendant alleged that the portions that were deleted were critical to his defense and ability to get a fair trial.

The defendant was convicted of murder and sought to have the United States Supreme Court define what it meant by the bad faith standard in Youngblood.  The defendant contends that the New Jersey Court applied an improper standard and other courts have applied a much less rigid standard to determine bad faith.

The United States Supreme Court should address this issue.  At DelSignore Law, we have a case involving this very issue where the police destroyed a booking video of our client despite a court order to preserve the video.  A ruling in Earley’s favor could make it easier for a defendant to show a due process violation when police destroy evidence that is critical to the defense such as a police booking video in a drunk driving case.  You can find the filing from the Earley case on the Scotus Blog.

Contact Attorney DelSignore to discuss your case. Whether you are currently dealing with a similar issue or merely have a question about a criminal charge you are facing, feel free to contact us today; we can evaluate your case after taking a look at your police report.