MINOT, N.D. — Anyone who has watched a police procedural or a courtroom drama knows what discovery is in the context of a criminal proceeding. It’s a requirement, established by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Brady v. Maryland decision, which found withholding evidence material to determining the guilt or innocence of a defendant is a violation of that defendant’s due process rights.
Basically, whatever evidence the prosecutors have, including evidence that might be exculpatory for the defendant, or evidence that might speak to the biases or credibility of a witness (that last being pertinent to what we’re about to get into), they have to turn it over to the defense.
Failure to disclose is a big stinkin’ deal.
This brings us to a situation involving a Cass County prosecutor and a police detective who entered into a romantic relationship that doesn’t seem to have been disclosed in a timely fashion, despite the assertions coming from the county.
Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick told me in an emailed statement that he’s been aware for months of the situation involving Assistant State’s Attorney SheraLynn Ternes and Fargo Police Detective Troy Hanson.