State v. Delisle

In State v. Delisle, 162 Vt. 293, 648 A.2d 632 (1994), the State kept only a small part of a tarp in which the victim's body was found, and the defendant wanted to use the whole tarp to show that a witness who testified that the defendant had a similar tarp on the day of the victim's death had inaccurately described it. The Court noted that defense counsel was able to accomplish the same purpose through cross-examination of the witness without the tarp. Delisle, 162 Vt. at 311, 648 A.2d at 643. The Vermont Supreme Court rejected the use of the Youngblood test (Arizona v. Youngblood) as the standard under its state constitution. Delisle, 648 A.2d at 643. In rejecting the federal standard, the court noted that it believed Youngblood was "both too broad and too narrow." Id. Specifically, the court stated that Youngblood was too broad because it required "the imposition of sanctions even though a defendant did not demonstrate any prejudice from the lost evidence." Id. And it was too narrow because it "limited due process violations to only those cases in which a defendant can demonstrate bad faith, even though the negligent loss of evidence may critically prejudice a defendant." Id. The court therefore adopted its own test. Id. Under the test, if a defendant demonstrated "a reasonable possibility that the lost evidence would be exculpatory," then the court would determine the proper sanctions by balancing "(1) the degree of negligence or bad faith on the part of the government; (2) the importance of the evidence lost; and (3) other evidence of guilt adduced at trial." Id. at 642-43.