State v. Eads, No. 53408

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtLeGRAND; In the same paper, at; All Justices concur, except BECKER; BECKER
Citation166 N.W.2d 766
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Petitioner, v. Honorable William R. EADS, Respondent.
Decision Date08 April 1969
Docket NumberNo. 53408

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166 N.W.2d 766
STATE of Iowa, Petitioner,
v.
Honorable William R. EADS, Respondent.
No. 53408.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
April 8, 1969.

Page 767

William G. Faches, County Atty., Thomas M. Horan, Asst. County Atty., and Thomas J. Wilkinson, Jr., Cedar Rapids, for petitioner.

Paul Kinion and R. Fred Dumbaugh, Cedar Rapids, for respondent.

LeGRAND, Justice.

This matter arises out of a prosecution now pending in Linn District Court in which the State accuses Elliott Charles Ricehill of the crime of murder in violation of section 690.1, Code of Iowa, 1966.

After a grand jury indictment had been returned, defendant filed his motion to require the State to produce certain evidentiary material for inspection, copying, and analysis. Defendant asks that the State produce the following:

1. Written statements secured by Cedar Rapids Police Department of all witnesses the State expects to testify at the trial, particularly those of Linda Beltram and Chester Davenport;

2. Copy of the F.B.I. report covering its analysis of certain physical evidence;

3. Investigation reports of police officers;

4. Photographs of the deceased taken by the police in the course of their investigation;

5. Certain physical evidence seized by the State following the alleged crime, including wrist watches of both defendant and the deceased, bed linen, whiskey bottle and cap therefrom, all of which were tested and analyzed for use against the defendant;

6. Report of autopsy performed upon the deceased by Dr. Percy Harris, Linn County Medical Examiner, and Dr. Skopec, pathologist;

7. 'Any exculpatory evidence' in possession of the police department or the county attorney which would assist defendant in establishing his innocence.

A hearing was held before Judge W. R. Eads, at which it was stipulated all items requested by defendant were in the possession of the State (except the autopsy report which was to become available later) and could be produced.

Defendant claimed all of this material was necessary to 'properly prepare for trial' and to afford him 'complete and intelligent assistance of counsel.'

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The trial court allowed the motion in its entirety except for the catchall paragraph asking production of all evidence exculpatory to defendant.

The State seeks to test the legality of this order by writ of certiorari. This is permissible under our previous holdings. State v. Rees, 258 Iowa 813, 816, 139 N.W.2d 406, 408, and citations. The State claims defendant is asking pre-trial discovery and that there is no such right in criminal cases.

It is true we have held discovery is not available to one charge with a crime. State v. District Court, 253 Iowa 903, 905, 114 N.W.2d 317, 318; State v. McClain, 256 Iowa 175, 181, 125 N.W.2d 764, 767, 4 A.L.R.3d 134.

However, that does not deny a defendant access to all evidentiary information which is in possession of the State and which is necessary to assure him a fair trial.

This is by no means a new controversy. As Justice William J. Brennan points out it dates back almost 150 years. In 'The Criminal Prosecution: Sporting Event or Quest for Truth?', 1963 Washington University Law Quarterly 279, at page 284, he said:

'It may appear strange that resistance to criminal discovery should be so stubborn in America, when Chief Justice Marshall seemed so strongly to approve it. * * * (A)s a Circuit Justice he presided in the celebrated trial of Aaron Burr. At that trial a request was made on Burr's behalf for pre-trial inspection of a letter addressed to the President of the United States and in the possession of the United States Attorney. Although the great chief justice did not hold there was an absolute right to compel disclosure, in characteristically strong terms he stated his view that if the letter had evidentiary relevance, or indeed was useful in cross-examination of any Government witness at the trial, it could not, in fairness to the defendant, be withheld from him. But the value of that precedent was virtually unappreciated in our country for almost a century and a half.'

In the same paper, at page 282, Justice Brennan comments: 'Few issues raise more sharply (than does criminal discovery) the basic ideological clash between opposed theories of criminal justice. Perhaps this is the reason for the bitterness that has often marked the debate.'

Both sides to this dispute have had their champions and still do. Arrayed against pre-trial disclosure of information were Justice Cardozo (then of the New York Court of Appeals) in People ex rel. Lemon v. Supreme Court, 245 N.Y. 24, 156 N.E. 84, 86, 52 A.L.R. 200; Justice Learned Hand in United States v. Garsson, (D.C., N.Y.), 291 F. 646, 649; and Chief Justice Vanderbilt of the New Jersey Supreme Court in State v. Tune, 13 N.J. 203, 98 A.2d 881, 885.

But they do not go unchallenged. We have already said enough to leave little doubt as to where Justice Brennan stands. His views are well stated in his dissent in State v. Tune, supra, at page 894, when he was sitting on the New Jersey court. Another who firmly recommends liberal pretrial discovery is Chief Justice Roger J. Traynor of the Supreme Court of California. See 'Ground Lost and Found in Criminal Discovery,' 39 N.Y.U. Law Review 228. See also VI Wigmore on Evidence, Third Ed., section 1863, page 487, 488. We refer to other support for the doctrine later.

Our consideration of the problem before us is confined to the fundamental principle of fair trial. For present purposes we take as established the argument that, in the absence of suppression of evidence favorable to a defendant, states do not violate due process by denying pre-trial discovery. 23 Am.Jur.2d, Depositions and Discovery, section 312, page 721; Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215; Giles v. Maryland, 386 U.S. 66, 87 S.Ct. 793, 17 L.Ed.2d 737; State v.

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Kelly, 249 Iowa 1219, 1221, 91 N.W.2d 562, 563; State v. Tharp, 258 Iowa 224, 229, 138 N.W.2d 78, 81. However, see also Palermo v. United States, 360 U.S. 343, 363, 79 S.Ct. 1217, 3 L.Ed.2d 1287, to the effect that in considering this question 'constitutional grounds (are) close to the surface.'

It is generally agreed there was no right to pre-trial discovery at common law. Even in the absence of statute, however, few today deny that courts have inherent power to compel disclosure of evidence by the State when necessary in the interests of justice. 23 Am.Jur.2d, Depositions and Discovery, section 308, page 713; Pretrial Discovery in State Criminal Cases, 12 Stanford Law Review, pages 293, 322. Virtually all the cases cited throughout this opinion, except those few which rely on a specific rule or statute allowing discovery, emphasize the power of the trial court in the exercise of sound judicial discretion to compel such disclosure, subject only to review for an abuse thereof.

The principal arguments against pre-trial discovery are these:

(1) It would afford the defendant increased opportunity to produce perjured testimony and to fabricate evidence to meet the State's case; (2) witnesses would be subject to bribe, threat and intimidation; (3) since the State cannot compel the defendant to disclose his evidence, disclosure by the State would afford the defendant an unreasonable advantage at trial; and (4) disclosure is unnecessary in any event because of the other sources of information which defendant has under existing law. See 42 Nebraska Law Review 127; 12 Stanford Law Review 293; 69 Yale Law Journal 1149; 39 N.Y.U. Law Review 228; 1963 Washington U. Law Quarterly 279; State v. Tune, supra, at pages 884, 885. For a discussion of this and allied problems see 33 F.R.D. 47 and Annotations, 7 A.L.R.3d 1.

These reasons are disputed by those favoring greater discovery in criminal cases. They claim experience, what little there is, shows these fears to be unjustified in theory and unfulfilled in practice. 39 N.Y.U. Law Review 228, 249; 1963 Washington Law Quarterly, supra, pages 287, 288; 'Vermont's Experiment in Criminal Discovery,' 53 A.B.A.J. (1967), page 732. See also 'Task Force Report: The Courts,' (1967), pages 41--44, (published by the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice.)

In retrospect our opinion in State v. Burris, 198 Iowa 1156, 1162, 198 N.W. 82, 85, although it was based on alleged failure to comply with what is now section 771.13, Code, nevertheless presaged the trend toward a liberal policy of pre-trial disclosure of information which is so apparent today. There we said, after holding the failure to file exhibits with the minutes of testimony was not a ground for setting aside the indictment:

'We are not * * * holding that the state may arbitrarily withhold exhibits produced before the grand jury and then without warning, or right of inspection on the part of defendant, introduce them unexpectedly upon the trial of the cause. The state should fairly disclose its intentions in such a matter * * *; and at all times the trial court has the power, and should exercise the same, to require the state, upon application by the defendant, to permit an inspection under proper conditions of any and all exhibits which are used before the grand jury and which are intended to be offered in evidence upon the trial of the case. A defendant's right can and should be fully guarded in this manner.'

We believe this statement is consistent with the principles and philosophy upon which present-day opinions are extending greater discovery rights in criminal prosecutions: that surprise and guile should, as far as possible, be removed from the arena in criminal trials just as it has in civil cases.

Although we have never ruled directly on the matters here presented to us, counsel

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call our attention to a number of cases involving related problems. None is controlling under present circumstances, but we refer to them briefly before discussing the issues now raised.

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39 practice notes
  • State v. Lass, No. 56960
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • April 16, 1975
    ...to inspect statements of witnesses or others, he should have included them in his motion to produce and complied with State v. Eads, 166 N.W.2d 766 (Iowa). We hold that the trial court acted within its discretion in ruling that the information was sufficient. See State v. Shephard, 255 Iowa......
  • State v. Horn, No. 62231
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • August 29, 1979
    ...of trial witnesses); State v. Mayhew, 170 N.W.2d 608, 613-14 (Iowa 1969) (copies of police reports of testifying officer); State v. Eads, 166 N.W.2d 766, 771-75 (Iowa 1969) (physical evidence, scientific reports setting forth information obtained from that evidence, statements made to polic......
  • State v. Redding, No. 53228
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 24, 1969
    ...Denial of only the first request is complained of here. Since trial of the present case we have dealt extensively in State v. Eads, Iowa, 166 N.W.2d 766, 773--775 with the question presented in this first assigned error. While the Eads opinion is too long to review here, nor is that necessa......
  • State v. Hall, No. 57467
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 12, 1975
    ...1973), Cert. denied 412 U.S. 906, 93 S.Ct. 2292, 36 L.Ed.2d 971; State v. Niccum, 190 N.W.2d 815, 826--828 (Iowa 1971) and State v. Eads, 166 N.W.2d 766, 773--774 (Iowa Several of defendant's complaints in this area concern the State's alleged failure to comply with the trial court's order ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
39 cases
  • State v. Lass, No. 56960
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • April 16, 1975
    ...to inspect statements of witnesses or others, he should have included them in his motion to produce and complied with State v. Eads, 166 N.W.2d 766 (Iowa). We hold that the trial court acted within its discretion in ruling that the information was sufficient. See State v. Shephard, 255 Iowa......
  • State v. Horn, No. 62231
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • August 29, 1979
    ...of trial witnesses); State v. Mayhew, 170 N.W.2d 608, 613-14 (Iowa 1969) (copies of police reports of testifying officer); State v. Eads, 166 N.W.2d 766, 771-75 (Iowa 1969) (physical evidence, scientific reports setting forth information obtained from that evidence, statements made to polic......
  • State v. Redding, No. 53228
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 24, 1969
    ...Denial of only the first request is complained of here. Since trial of the present case we have dealt extensively in State v. Eads, Iowa, 166 N.W.2d 766, 773--775 with the question presented in this first assigned error. While the Eads opinion is too long to review here, nor is that necessa......
  • State v. Hall, No. 57467
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 12, 1975
    ...1973), Cert. denied 412 U.S. 906, 93 S.Ct. 2292, 36 L.Ed.2d 971; State v. Niccum, 190 N.W.2d 815, 826--828 (Iowa 1971) and State v. Eads, 166 N.W.2d 766, 773--774 (Iowa Several of defendant's complaints in this area concern the State's alleged failure to comply with the trial court's order ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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