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Civil rights groups want all prosecutors to keep Brady lists

Prosecutors in Texas and other states have received letters from progressive advocacy groups including Black Lives Matter and the American Civil Liberties Union. The letters were written after media outlets in Florida exposed violent and racist Facebook posts written by sheriff's deputies, and they ask prosecutors not to pursue criminal cases that rely on testimony from police officers with a history of misconduct, bias or racism. The letters also urge prosecutors to compile lists of officers with troubled pasts that may be shared with criminal defendants and their lawyers.

Prosecutors in many parts of the country already keep such lists. They are known as Brady lists because of a 1963 Supreme Court ruling that requires prosecutors to turn potentially exculpatory material over to defendants. The civil rights groups say that all prosecutors should keep a Brady list, and they want the names on the lists to be monitored by an independent body. Some of the groups have begun to compile lists of their own based on information posted on social media websites.

Police unions oppose the idea and say Brady lists infringe on the privacy rights of officers. Some law enforcement organizations have even taken legal action to block them. One such case was brought by the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs to stop a Brady list being turned over to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. The Supreme Court of California has agreed to hear arguments in the case.

Experienced criminal defense attorneys may study their old case files carefully when police officers are disciplined for behavior that could raise questions about their previous court testimony. Attorneys could also conduct their own online searches for inflammatory social media posts when the account of events provided by their clients is at odds with the contents of police reports.

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