UVA Law Symposium to Examine Criminal Discovery Rules and Practices in Virginia

Criminal Discovery in the Commonwealth

Nina Morrison, senior staff attorney for the Innocence Project at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law, will deliver the symposium's keynote address.

February 21, 2014

Policymakers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement agents and academics will convene at the University of Virginia School of Law to discuss the rules and best practices of criminal discovery, the formal process by which the defense and prosecution exchange information in preparation for trial.

The symposium, "Criminal Discovery in the Commonwealth," will be held Wednesday, Feb. 26 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Law School's Caplin Auditorium. The event is sponsored by the Virginia Journal of Criminal Law.

Keynote speaker Nina Morrison, senior staff attorney for the Innocence Project at Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law, will lead off the symposium with an address on the highly publicized case of Texan Michael Morton. Sentenced in 1987 to life in prison for the murder of his wife, Morton was exonerated in 2011 after Morrison and Houston attorney John Raley uncovered gross violations of Texas discovery rules: the prosecuting attorney had withheld from the defense numerous pieces of key exculpatory evidence.

"The Morton case illustrates the enormous importance of this issue in a very personal way," said Sean Mulligan, special projects editor of the Virginia Journal of Criminal Law. "Nina Morrison's hard work spent exonerating Morton would have been unnecessary had this prosecutor followed the law."

Mulligan said close consideration of the rules of criminal discovery is not only timely, given a recent proposal to change Virginia's rules, but critical to the optimal functioning of the criminal justice system.

"Failing to disclose exculpatory evidence continues to be a serious problem nationwide, with reversals of convictions due to violations of Brady v. Maryland,and cases in which exculpatory evidence came to light only years after a conviction," Mulligan said. 

Morrison's talk will be followed by a break for lunch; lunch will be followed by two panel discussions during which attorneys and law enforcement officers will consider, respectively, best practices of criminal discovery, and the proposed criminal discovery rule changes in Virginia.

"Criminal Discovery in the Commonwealth" is free and open to the public. Lunch will be served, and registration is required.

This event has been approved for 4 DCJS in-service credits; approval for 3 CLE credits is pending. Registration is available at bit.ly/1aW1LHr .

Schedule - Wednesday, Feb. 25

10 a.m.
Sean Mulligan
Special Projects Editor, Virginia Journal of Criminal Law

Symposium Overview/Speaker Introduction
Brandon Garrett
University of Virginia School of Law

10:20 a.m.
Keynote Address
The Morton Case and Criminal Discovery
Nina Morrison
Senior staff attorney, the Innocence Project
11:30 a.m.
Question and Answer Session
12 p.m.
1 p.m.
Best Practices and Criminal Discovery
  • Tim Longo, Chief of Police, Charlottesville
  • Joe Platania, Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney's Office
  • Tim Heaphy '91, United States Attorney, Western District of Virginia
  • Rupen Shah, Augusta County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office
2 p.m.
Proposed Criminal Discovery Rule Changes
  • John Douglass, Professor, University of Richmond School of Law
  • Mike Doucette, Commonwealth's Attorney of Lynchburg, President of the Virginia Association of Commonwealth's Attorneys
  • David Bruck, Professor, Washington & Lee School of Law
  • Judge Rossie D. Alston, Jr., Virginia Court of Appeals, Special Committee on Criminal Discovery Rules, Commonwealth of Virginia
  • James M. McCauley, Ethics Counsel for the Virginia State Bar
2:45 p.m.
Question and Answer Session and Concluding Remarks


Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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