Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
State v. Carr, 331 P.3d 544 (Kan. 2014).
This case addresses the following issue:
Why does the State have to put the names of its witnesses on the complaint?
This case explores the question of why the State has to put the names of its witnesses on the complaint. The court found that the purpose of the requirement for a prosecutor to list on a complaint the names of all witnesses was to prevent surprise to the defendant and to give the defendant an opportunity to interview and examine the witnesses for the prosecution in advance of the trial. Id. at 686.
In this case, the defendant and his brother were tried together and both charged and sentenced for crimes committed in a series of three incidents in December 2000. Id. at 573. In the first incident, the State charged the defendant and his brother with one count of kidnapping, one count of aggravated robbery, one count of aggravated battery, and one count of criminal damage to the property. Id. Furthermore, in the second incident, the defendant and his brother were charged with one count of first-degree felony murder. Id. at 574. Lastly, in the third incident, the defendant and his brother were charged with an abundance of crimes including: capital murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and rape. Id. In total, the defendant and his brother were convicted of 50 crimes and received four death sentences. Id. at 573. The defendant raised 21 issues tied to his guilt phase and 19 issues tied to his death penalty phase. Id.
One of the defendant’s arguments was that there was a discovery violation that resulted in admission of evidence causing unfair and harmful surprise, which should have resulted in a mistrial. Id. at 686. In particular, the defendant argued that he asked the State prior to trial for medical records from one of the witnesses and the State would not provide them. Id. In order to address this potential discovery violation, the court addressed why the State had to list the names of the witnesses on the complaint. Id. The court noted that when the criminal case was filed, the prosecutor was required to list the names of all witnesses known on the charging document/complaint. Id. Furthermore, the court found that at later times allowed by the court, a prosecutor might list additional witnesses that have become known. Id. Ultimately, the court quoted State v. Shelby, 89 P.3d 558 (2004), which stated, “The purpose of the endorsement/listing requirement is to prevent surprise to the defendant and to give the defendant an opportunity to interview and examine the witnesses for the prosecution in advance of trial.” Id. With regard to the witness’s medical records, the court determined that there was no discovery violation because the State was not able to obtain the medical record until the trial had commenced. Id. Furthermore, when the State received the medical records, they immediately shared them with the defendant and the judge. Id. at 686-87.
In sum, the State is required to put the names of its witnesses on the complaint to make sure that the State does not gain any unfair advantage by surprising the defendant with a witness that he or she did not prepare for prior to trial.