News Release

Unprecedented candor raises suspicion of criminal defense bar Government admission of undisclosed evidence is uncommon response to common situation

Washington, DC (May 11, 2001) -- In response to the admission by the Justice Department that more than 3,000 pages of interviews and other material were not properly and timely disclosed to the defense in the Timothy McVeigh case, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers President Edward Mallett issued the following statement:

"No one in the criminal defense bar is surprised at the admission that evidence was not properly disclosed in this case. It happens in too many cases and it is far too rare in criminal cases that the government steps forward to admit its failings.

"The withholding of evidence and other law enforcement misconduct is the number two cause of wrongful convictions, behind ineffective assistance of counsel in indigent cases. All too often, judges unquestioningly accept law enforcement assurances that all discoverable evidence has been turned over to the defense. Mr. McVeigh's case demonstrates that judges must be much more active in ensuring that a defendant is able to discover all evidence gathered by law enforcement.

"We should also reconsider current federal rules, which allow for less discovery in criminal cases than in civil cases.

"More immediately, there is no question that Mr. McVeigh's execution should be postponed. As important is the question whether a 30-day postponement is sufficient. If the United States is going to kill in its name, it must ensure that the man it would kill, and his defense team, have sufficient time to review these new-found materials. The government must also investigate, and report to the American people, how it was that this evidence was withheld."

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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.