Right to Inspect Prior Statement of a State's Witness in Maryland
The Right to inspect prior statement of a State's witness for Purposes of Cross-examination:
In Carr v. State, 284 Md. 455, 397 A.2d 606 (1979), the Court held that the defendant had a right to obtain and use the written statements of a prosecution witness for purposes of cross-examination or impeachment. 284 Md. at 472-73.
Judge Smith specifically observed:
Effective cross-examination here made it necessary that defense counsel be permitted to directly confront the witness with his inconsistent prior statement. To deny to defense counsel the tool necessary for such adequate cross-examination under these circumstances amounts in our view to a denial to the defendant of due process of law. Id.
In Leonard v. State, 46 Md. App. 631, 421 A.2d 85 (1980), aff'd, 290 Md. 295, 429 A.2d 538 (1981), the Court elaborated on the principles set forth in Carr:
Carr makes clear beyond question that a defendant's right, at trial, to inspect the prior statement of a State's witness who has testified is not necessarily limited (1) by the rules pertaining to pretrial discovery, or (2) to statements that are merely exculpatory. When confronted with the actual testimony of a critical witness and the knowledge that the witness has given a prior statement bearing on a material issue in the case, counsel is not engaged in a mere "fishing expedition" in seeking access to the prior statement. At that point, it becomes more than a matter of casting a seine over the State's files to see what turns up, but of directly confronting the witness; and the statement thus assumes a specific importance and relevance beyond its general value for trial preparation. (46 Md. App. at 637-38.)
The principles adopted in Carr were drawn from the Supreme Court's decision in Jencks v. United States, 353 U.S. 657, 77 S. Ct. 1007, 1 L. Ed. 2d 1103, 75 Ohio Law Abs. 465 (1957). See Jones v. State, 310 Md. 569, 583, 530 A.2d 743 (1987), vacated, 486 U.S. 1050, 108 S. Ct. 2815, 100 L. Ed. 2d 916, aff'd in part and vacated on other grounds, 314 Md. 111, 549 A.2d 17 (1988).
In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision, Congress acted quickly to codify the rules articulated in Jencks by passing the "Jencks Act," which "clarifies and limits the Jencks holding." Robinson v. State, 354 Md. 287, 303, 730 A.2d 181 (1999). See Wright, Federal Practice and Procedure, Criminal 3d 436 at 195 (2000).
Although the Maryland General Assembly has not enacted a counterpart to the federal statute, "Maryland courts have looked to the Act, as well as subsequent analysis and interpretation of the Jencks Act, for guidance in interpreting the reach and ramifications of the Carr decision." Robinson, supra, 354 Md. at 303.