There are some developments in criminal cases that leave you shaking your head. Things that fall under the You Can’t Make This Stuff Up category.
This week, a judge ordered the state to turn over about 8,000 pages of police reports to lawyers for Jamie Snow, who has been challenging his murder conviction since he went to prison 21 years ago. All the players are new to this case: the judge, the prosecutor and Snow’s legal team were not involved in Snow’s trial or the years of post-conviction efforts.
What puts the recent developments in the category of the bizarre is the circumstance leading to the thousands of pages of records. Snow’s original legal team included a lawyer who later went to prison on criminal charges and a second attorney who died, leaving Snow’s attorneys with The Exoneration Project with no access to the records that may or may not have been turned over during the discovery process. No one knows for sure.
Five years ago, a judge approved a subpoena to the Illinois State Police and Bloomington police for records related to fingerprint evidence the defense wanted for its motion for DNA testing. In response, Bloomington police dumped thousands of pages of reports that far exceeded the information requested by the police. Snow’s new lawyers said some of the material was new to them and could be considered exculpatory.
Previous efforts by the defense to obtain records from police through the Freedom of Information Act were met with black pages of heavily redacted information.
But for the mountain of information inadvertently released by Bloomington police, the defense would not have had access to materials that may impact Snow’s future post-conviction petitions.
The state balked at turning over the materials. A prosecutor told the judge Snow’s lawyers are only entitled to the materials that fit the narrow scope of the original subpoena. The judge disagreed and ordered the documents released to the defense.
It is common for the most uncommon circumstances to be the game changer in post-conviction cases. You can’t make these things up but when they occur, they can open new doors for people with innocence claims.
Here’s a link to a story I authored for WGLT on Snow’s recent hearing: