Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to
the United States Constitution, prosecutors have an
affirmative duty to disclose evidence favorable to a
defendant when the evidence is material either to guilt or to
punishment. This duty exists irrespective of the good faith
or bad faith of the prosecution.
responsibility to provide material evidence is not limited to
prosecutors. Rather, because law enforcement officers act
with state authority, law enforcement's knowledge of
evidence is imputed to the State. The State therefore runs
afoul of this principle when a prosecutor withholds material
evidence that is not known to the prosecutor but is known to
a district court learns that the State has failed to disclose
evidence favorable to the defendant, the court may impose a
range of sanctions, including granting continuances,
restricting the use of evidence, and entering any other order
the court "deems just under the circumstances."
K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 22-3212(i). By allowing district courts to
enter such orders as they deem "just," the Kansas
Legislature has afforded courts discretion to determine the
appropriate sanction in a given case.
appellate court will uphold the imposition of a discovery
sanction in a criminal case-including dismissal-unless that
action constitutes an abuse of discretion.
determining which sanction to impose for discovery violations
in a criminal case, a court should take into account the
reasons why disclosure was not made; the extent of the
prejudice, if any, to the opposing party; the feasibility of
rectifying that prejudice by a continuance; and any other
Because dismissal is a drastic remedy, Kansas courts have
historically observed that it should be used only in extreme
circumstances, when a lesser sanction would not accomplish
the desired objective. That said, Kansas courts have long
recognized that a court may dismiss a case when failure to
abide by the discovery rules prevents a fair trial.
Evidence is materially exculpatory if it would raise a doubt
about the defendant's guilt. The United States
Constitution requires, at a minimum, that such evidence be
provided to the defendant in a criminal case for his or her
investigation and possible defense.
from Douglas District Court; Sally D. Pokorny, judge.
Duncan Butler, assistant district attorney, Charles E.
Branson, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney
general, for appellant.
Patrick H. Dunn, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, for
Powell, P.J., Hill and Warner, JJ.
courts have long recognized that the law favors resolving
criminal charges on their merits. State v. Davis,
266 Kan. 638, 646, 972 P.2d 1099 (1999). At the same time,
various constitutional and statutory safeguards ensure the
process for resolving such charges is a fair one-including
the requirement that prosecutors timely disclose evidence
that is material to the question of a defendant's guilt.
State v. Warrior, 294 Kan. 484, ...