New California law makes it a felony for prosecutors to withhold exculpatory evidence.
Under the new law, signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Friday, prosecutors can receive up to three years in prison if they alter or intentionally withhold exculpatory evidence. Previously, such conduct was only a misdemeanor.
The change in the law was inspired in part by the conduct of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. In March 2015, Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals removed the District Attorney’s office from a high-profile mass-murder case. Goethals said prosecutors violated the defendant’s rights by failing to turn over evidence. Numerous other Orange County criminal cases have collapsed due to withholding of evidence.
The story of Obie Anthony also inspired legislators to pass the law. Anthony was convicted of a 1995 murder outside a Los Angeles brothel and exonerated in 2011 after it was revealed the key witness, a pimp, had received leniency in exchange for his testimony. The full bill can be viewed here.