Brief filed: 08/06/2020
People v. Donthe Lucas
Colorado Supreme Court; Case No. 20SA178
On appeal from Pueblo County District Court, Case No. 17CR2491
Mr. Lucas is held in a county jail without bail pending trial on a charge of first degree murder. In this original proceeding, the Colorado Supreme Court will determine whether the trial erred in denying Mr. Lucas’ motion to require the sheriff to keep professional consultation visits confidential. The Sheriff has a policy to inform the district attorney of the professional consultation visits received by Mr. Lucas. The amicus brief argues that the right to prepare a defense in secret is a necessary corollary to a defendant’s constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, and the effective assistance of counsel. When the prosecution prematurely learns the identity of consulting defense experts, the prosecution gains an unfair advantage in trial preparation, rendering the trial fundamentally unfair. The Sheriff can only provide this information when the defendant is incarcerated pretrial, denying equal protection to indigent and otherwise non-bondable defendants. An express recognition that defendants must be granted a fair opportunity to prepare their defense with sufficient secrecy to protect their pretrial strategy from disclosure is consistent with reciprocal discovery rules which require disclose of defense experts only if they will be called as trial witnesses and with the attorney work-product doctrine. Defense lawyers will also be rendered constitutionally ineffective if forced to alter strategies for consulting with experts solely because a defendant is jailed pretrial.
Amy D. Trenary, Appeal to Justice, LLC, Broomfield, CO; Norman R. Mueller, Haddon, Morgan and Foreman, P.C., Denver, CO.