reciprocal discovery

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Reciprocal Discovery is a principle of criminal procedure that requires the defendant to give the prosecution copies of any pretrial statements that a defense witness gave during discovery. This principle is also referred to as "reverse Jencks material," named after the 1957 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established the derivative principle, Jencks v. U.S. That is, Jencks v. U.S. gives defendants the right to obtain copies of the prosecution’s pretrial statements from witnesses that will be used in trial—see Brady Material. In U.S. v. Novles, the U.S. Supreme Court established the principle of reciprocal discovery. In requiring reciprocal discovery, the Court emphasized that the right of the prosecution to obtain defense pretrial statements would “substantially enhance ‘the search for truth.’” Specifically, the issue at hand was whether the prosecution, who relied on an eyewitness, was entitled to the pretrial statement of defendant’s investigator who sought to impeach the prosecution’s eyewitness. The Court affirmed that allowing the prosecution to obtain the witness’s pretrial statements would enhance the search for truth, and the prosecution could request an order requiring that the defendant give them such discovery. The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 26.2 has since enshrined this principle.

[Last updated in December of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]