Are An Individual’s Due Process Rights Violated If State Destroys Evidence That He Has Specifically Requested for ?

In State v. Benton (2000), 136 Ohio App.3d 801, 737 N.E.2d 1046, the defendant sought discovery of a videotape of his traffic stop.

The state, however, did not produce the tape.

Eventually, the defendant discovered that the tape, if one ever existed, had been erased and reused in accordance with normal police procedure.

The defendant then sought dismissal of the case due to the state's failure to preserve the tape.

The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the state's destruction of the tape violated his due process rights. Assuming that the videotape had existed, the Sixth District Court of Appeals held that "where a defendant moves to have evidence preserved and that evidence is nonetheless destroyed by the state in accordance with its normal procedures, the appropriate remedy is to shift the burden to the state to show that the evidence was not exculpatory." Benton, 136 Ohio App.3d at 805, citing Forest, 36 Ohio App.3d at 173.

The court determined that the state did not meet its burden of showing that the videotape was not exculpatory. Benton at 806. Specifically, the court noted that given the record in the case, it was "equally possible that the tape would have been exculpatory as inculpatory." Id.

The court stated:

"Because appellant testified that he disputes much of the testimony that the officer gave at the suppression hearing, the tape would have provided the only possible objective evidence of the events as they happened on the night that appellant was stopped." Id.

In the end, the court held that the state violated the defendant's due process rights when it destroyed the evidence that the defendant specifically requested. Id.