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Unsealed documents reveal discovery disputes in Freddie Gray cases

Nearly one year after vitriolic court filings began flying in earnest as litigation in the Freddie Gray cases ramped up, Baltimore City Circuit Judge Barry Williams is unsealing court documents, reflecting his view that the six separate trials should be treated as “one case” to avoid contaminating the jury pools.

On Aug. 3, Williams unsealed an order requiring prosecutors to turn over documents assembled after they were given an ultimatum in June for failing to disclose exculpatory material.

At the time, Williams had given prosecutors less than one week to review their files and told Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow he would be held in contempt for any exculpatory evidence not turned over.

The state gave Williams several documents, including text messages between Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe and Det. Dawnyell Taylor, who accused each other of lying, and Taylor’s investigatory notes. He ordered they all be turned over without redactions but barred the defense from using them without permission.

Defense attorneys lodged repeated discovery complaints throughout the trials, which Williams required be done under seal, including multiple requests for documents pertaining to the state’s independent investigation into Gray’s death.

Prosecutors eventually complied with a court order to turn over those documents but filed a motion under seal to shield the documents they believed were work product, pertained to interactions with the press or were drafts of public remarks.

The motion itemizes the documents to be shielded, including emails analyzing Gray’s detention and arrest, an email containing Schatzow’s thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses of the case and trial strategies and emails about the possible charges.

Defense attorneys, in their now-unsealed reply, claimed any materials created prior to charging the defendants on May 1, 2015 were made by prosecutors in their roles as investigators.

In his order, Williams determined a number of items should be turned over but appeared to agree with the majority of the state’s claims about attorney-work product by declining to order their disclosure.

Similar motions and orders were filed in the remaining cases with similar results.