The official meaning of exculpatory evidence is “to exonerate someone of a crime or clear them of wrongdoing or blame.”
If you plan to appeal a conviction, exculpatory evidence may be beneficial and help with your defense. It is often referred to as “Brady material” since a case in 1963 first led to its use. Learn more about how it may help with your appeal here.
Using exculpatory evidence to prove innocence
When exculpatory evidence is used, a request is made to the prosecuting attorney to disclose all evidence used in the original trial. It’s possible to request specific Brady materials, including video footage, materials related to witnesses, time and date stamped receipts and more.
If a broad Brady disclosure is requested, the defense relies on the prosecutor to use their judgment to disclose exculpatory evidence that may be helpful. This method is not commonly used since the prosecution may (purposefully or unintentionally) fail to provide evidence that could be beneficial.
Requesting specific materials ensures the evidence will have the biggest likelihood of being beneficial.
In many situations, the prosecution may access evidence that would reduce guilt or exonerate a defendant. The court has ruled that all evidence that could provide this outcome be given when requested. Failure to do this by the prosecution can result in criminal charges.
Improving the success of your appeal
If you have filed an appeal, exculpatory evidence may help show that you were not guilty of the crime or reduce your portion of guilt. This evidence can be invaluable in either situation when moving forward with an appeal.