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Name: In re Steele
Case #: S114551
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 03/08/2004
Summary

Penal Code section 1054.9 provides broad post-conviction discovery rights to petitioners sentenced either to death or to life without possibility of parole, and is not limited merely to assisting in the reconstruction of defense counsel files. Preliminarily, the Supreme Court held that a discovery request under section 1054.9 should first be made in the court where the petitioner was sentenced. Secondly, however, the court rejected the prosecution argument that section 1054.9 provides only limited discovery rights to defendants challenging their convictions via habeas corpus. The court held that, upon a proper showing that a defendant has made a good faith effort to obtain the requested materials from trial counsel, a trial court must order discovery of specific materials in the possession of prosecution or law enforcement if the defendant can show either that those materials (1) were provided by the prosecution at the time of trial but have since become lost, or (2) should have been provided by the prosecution at the time of trial because of some duty on the prosecutor’s part, or (3) should have been provided by the prosecution at the time of trial because the defense specifically requested them, or (4) would have been the subject of a prosecutorial obligation to disclose had the defense requested them at trial.