Nevada Supreme Court: Defense entitled to jury criminal histories
December 9, 2018
The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled defense teams are entitled to criminal history information prosecutors get from sources the defense doesn't have access to.
The issue was raised in discovery hearings before the murder trial of Francisco Ojeda in Washoe County when defense counsel asked for access to the criminal history material of potential jurors before jury selection. Ojeda's lawyers said the prosecution has access to government databases not available to the defense. They argued the resulting disparity in information puts them at a serious disadvantage during jury selection.
District judge Lynne Simons agreed and ordered the prosecution to provide the information, stating that's a fundamental right to fair play.
The state petitioned to block disclosure but six members of the high court disagreed and rejected the petition. In an opinion by Justice Lidia Stiglich, they wrote the district court has the authority to compel disclosure of information about the potential jurors in a case and its decision was neither arbitrary or capricious. They agreed with Simons that, "allowing only the state to use the criminal histories of potential jurors creates a disparity."
The dissent was written by Justice Kris Pickering who said the ruling is a "broad mandatory disclosure rule" that "has no basis in the United States or Nevada Constitutions, the Nevada Statutes governing discovery in criminal cases or any formally adopted court rule."
She said even if the court has that inherent authority, "it would be wiser to proceed by formal rule-making after notice and hearing with input from all affected."