Public defenders are preparing for a hearingthis morning ontheir detailed request for the state's evidence in the murder case against Dennis Rader.
The so-called "motion for discovery," while filed in nearly every criminal case, is especially detailed for Rader, who faces 10 counts of first-degree murder related to Wichita's infamous BTK serial killings.
The motion by Jama Mitchell, one of Rader's lawyers, contains 14 pages of requests, including "all persons who have contacted the government relating to this case."
Judges usually grant such motions without argument, and District Attorney Nola Foulston said her office maintains an open policy for sharing evidence with the defense, as required by law.
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But some Wichita lawyers say they wouldn't be surprised if the sheer scope of the request meets with some resistance.
"I've got a feeling Nola is going to fight this one," criminal defense lawyer Kurt Kerns said. "But in Nola's defense, she doesn't want to have to spend all her time going out and looking for stuff that's going to help this guy. But that's what the law says."
A spokeswoman for Foulston's office said the request for a hearing puzzled prosecutors.
Georgia Cole, spokeswoman for Foulston, said the district attorney has been sharing evidence from the beginning.
Rader's defense team is asking the prosecution "to contact each and every person" involved in "or known to the prosecution" to have information in the 31-year-old case.
The request could cover thousands of tips and DNA samples taken from 1,300 citizens in one of the longest manhunts in Kansas history.
Rader's defense also wants detailed descriptions of evidence that may have been lost over the years.
"That's something that may have been overlooked by the prosecution if it wasn't specifically requested," said Vern Miller, former district attorney, county sheriff and state attorney general, now in private practice. "It is a lawyer's obligation to request these materials. They're doing their jobs."
Such requests for evidence usually serve more to preserve a record for future disputes that could lead to an appeal. In other words, if you don't ask for it and don't get it, you can't complain later.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1963 ruled that the prosecution must turn over any evidence that is likely to help the defense. The "Brady" ruling said such evidence is not limited to just what prosecutors have in their possession but also anything held by other investigators or arms of the government.
"It not only includes any evidence that would directly show someone's innocence, but any information that may lead to evidence that would show innocence," Kerns said.
A request for discovery also opens up files for prosecutors. Kansas law provides that once the defense asks for state's evidence, it must in turn provide prosecutors with any reports, documents or other information "the defendant intends to produce at any hearing."
The defense team was not available to field questions Thursday.