In Prosecutors We Trust: UK Lessons for Illinois Disclosure



Publication Date

Summer 2007



Document Type



This article examines the duty of American prosecutors to ensure fair trials and safeguard confidence in the criminal justice system. To accomplish this, the article seeks, by comparative study, to evaluate the likelihood that recent amendments to the Illinois disclosure rules will strengthen prosecutorial observance of evidentiary disclosure responsibilities in light of the problems encountered by the United Kingdom in implementing similar reforms. Prosecutorial failures to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense significantly contributed to the widely-publicized problems in the administration of the death penalty in Illinois. These errors led to a series of death row exonerations, and, in response, the Illinois legislature and courts adopted additional rules for preventing disclosure violations. Analysis of the UK disclosure experience with analogous reforms reveals many lessons for Illinois and other states wishing to address problems surrounding the disclosure of exculpatory evidence. In assessing the potential of the Illinois reforms to achieve prosecutorial compliance with disclosure duties, this article takes an essential first step towards developing an effective model of disclosure, which should prove instructive for policymakers dedicated to advancing the due process protections secured by the prosecutorial duty to disclose.