Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

House Kills Criminal Discovery Code Bill

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

House Kills Criminal Discovery Code Bill

Article excerpt

The Oklahoma House of Representatives killed a bill Wednesday that proponents said would speed up the judicial process but that opponents said would create an "unlevel playing field" for prosecutors.

Representatives voted 76-9 against the conference committee substitute to House Bill 1530, which called for the creation of the Oklahoma Criminal Discovery Code.

Rep. Bill Settle, D-Muskogee, a former federal prosecutor, said he would not ask that the measure be reconsidered this session.

The code would have authorized courts to act on pretrial motions, grant certain defendant rights, require the state and the defense to make certain disclosures and empower courts to order sanctions for noncompliance with the code.

Some lawmakers were troubled by the disclosure issue, particularly Rep. Karroll Rhoads, who said two sections of the substitute created a greater discovery advantage for defense attorneys.

"In talking with district attorneys across the state, they have significant problems with the disparity that this bill creates an unlevel playing field, if you will, between prosecution and defense," said Rhoads, R-Ada.

Section 5 would have required the state to disclose to defense counsel all of the information within the prosecutor's possession or control, including the names and addresses of people who have knowledge of the facts or information about the case.

Section 6 would have required the defense to disclose similar information to the prosecution, but limited such discovery to witnesses the defense intends to call during trial.

Settle said language in the bill was agreed upon last fall by a committee made of up of members of the Oklahoma Bar Association, judges and prosecutors, and only codifies existing case law.

"If we should vote this bill down today, it still remains existing case law and the district attorneys are still bound by it," he said.

When asked by Settle to specify the disparities in the measure, Rhoads said the people mentioned in Section 6 are limited to witnesses, whereas the persons mentioned in Section 5 could encompass just about anyone.

"What is fair about that?" he asked. …

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