New Open-File Policy Includes Appellate Info
By John Council
October 06, 2008
When Craig Watkins took over as Dallas County district attorney in January 2007, one of the first big administrative changes he made was instituting an open-file policy that allows criminal-defense attorneys to see a prosecutor's file before trial. Now he has taken that policy one step further and the implications could be huge, several appellate experts say.
As of Sept. 22, Watkins changed his open-file policy to include all post-conviction matters, meaning criminal-defense lawyers can now examine any of the thousands of case files the Dallas County District Attorney's Office has handled in the past. Watkins says the office still has decades-old case files in storage.
First, I am confused. The policy seems to refer to 11.07 writs, not direct appeals, yet all of the comments concern what will happen in regard to appeals.
Second, will the policy apply to pro se applicants (which constitute by far the largest number of writs filed)? If so, then you will see a deluge of requests for review of materials. Also, does the disclosure occur before the writ is filed? If not, then the issues have already been drawn. I guess everyone will just allege a Brady or Batson violation in hopes of uncovering the proof later.
If you give someone a new pond to fish in, then a lot of fishermen will appear. My guess is, whenever there was an intentional hiding of evidence, it will somehow manage to stay hidden.
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