Massachusetts expands reciprocal discovery requirements

A Massachusetts Supreme Court opinion expands the scope of reciprocal discovery in criminal trials to encompass interviews of prosecution witnesses conducted by the defense where material is uncovered that might be used for impeachment. The opinion outlines the trial court case circumstances that lead to the Supreme Court’s involvement.

The defendant later filed a motion for additional discovery, seeking the names of all the Commonwealth’s prospective trial witnesses and an opportunity to inspect all documentary and physical evidence that the Commonwealth intended to offer at trial. A Superior Court judge allowed the motion, contingent on the defendant providing the same discovery to the Commonwealth, and limiting the obligation to such evidence that pertained to each party’s case-in-chief.

Subsequently, the Commonwealth filed a motion for additional reciprocal discovery. In its motion, the Commonwealth sought, among other requests, the disclosure of any written or recorded statement of any prospective witness, including potential witnesses for the Commonwealth, that the defendant intended to offer at trial for any purpose, including for impeachment.

The New York Times article notes that Massachusetts is often a legal trend setter, which could lead to broader adoption of this expansive view of reciprocal discovery beyond the three states that currently have it in place: New Jersey, Minnesota and New York.

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