State ex rel. Hill v. Reed

In State ex rel. Hill v. Reed, 199 W. Va. 89, 483 S.E.2d 89 (1996), the Court discussed the question of whether it was appropriate for a trial court to require a criminal defendant to disclose the names of his prospective witnesses. The Court recognized that jury selection was critical to the fairness of criminal trials and pointed out that a function of voir dire is to elicit possible prejudice possessed by prospective jurors which might affect their ability to render a verdict solely on the evidence under the instructions of the court. The Court also indicated that voir dire must be meaningful so that the parties may select a jury competent to judge and determine the facts in issue without bias, prejudice or partiality. The Court concluded that voir dire can not be effectively conducted unless the names of prospective jurors are disclosed prior to trial. As a consequence, the Court concluded that it was appropriate, and within the discretion of a trial judge, to require that the parties to a criminal proceeding prepare and submit to the court a list of their prospective witnesses, as well as the addresses of those witnesses. The Court did, however, suggest in State ex rel. Hill v. Reed, id., that there was a countervailing concern involved in the pretrial identification of witnesses. That concern is that the process of identifying witnesses not be used as a subterfuge for discovery where such discovery is not otherwise appropriate. In State ex rel. Hill v. Reed, id., the relator did not seek disclosure pursuant to Rule 16 of the West Virginia Rules of Criminal Procedure, and the Court noted that he was not, therefore, obligated to make reciprocal disclosure to the State. The Court stated that: In State ex rel. Hill v. Reed, id., the Court concluded that the circuit court's requiring the parties to produce witness lists was proper, and was within the court's discretion, where the circuit court required that the lists be provided on the day of trial. By so doing, the circuit court insured that the witness information was available for voir dire purposes, but was not available for impermissible discovery purposes.