Redacted discovery

At least in the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Horry and Georgetown Counties, it is office policy to redact all discovery to remove all information on all witnesses, including contact information, sometimes their names, and even incident locations. It is done in every single case, regardless of the nature of the case and whether the defendant has gang affiliations. The solicitor’s office refuses to provide witness information even where the defense agrees to a consent order that the information will not be provided to the defendant, and will only provide the information when a judge orders it.
There is no way that a defense lawyer can conduct an independent investigation when the prosecutor hides information about the identity and location of witnesses, and in many cases this is exculpatory information that must be provided under Brady. Witnesses, including the complaining witnesses, often have very different versions of events than the police and prosecutors, and can point the defense toward other helpful witnesses or evidence. Not always, but often enough that in my opinion it is malpractice not to independently investigate and interview witnesses.
We’re filing motions to compel in many of these cases. I suspect that most attorneys are letting this go – don’t. If you are getting discovery that is redacted to the point where it is meaningless, file motions to compel, push the issue, and don’t let this become an accepted standard practice throughout the state.
Edit: I understand that the purpose of redacting discovery is to protect victims and witnesses. There is middle ground where victims and witnesses can be protected and an accused person’s right to a fair trial can also be protected. And, believe it or not, most criminal defendants are not blood thirsty killers.

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