State ex rel. Rusen v. Hill
In State ex rel. Rusen v. Hill, 193 W. Va. 133, 454 S.E.2d 427 (1994), the Court extensively examined the implications of the State's failure to respond properly to a discovery request in a criminal trial.
The Court indicated that a defendant's constitutional rights are implicated when discovery fails and noted that discovery is one of the most important tools of criminal justice.
The Court also noted that the purpose of Rule 16 of the West Virginia Rules of Criminal Procedure, West Virginia's principal criminal discovery rule, is to protect a defendant's right to a fair trial.
Although the Court recognized that while the failure to respond properly to a discovery request is not always fatal to the State's case in a criminal proceeding, the failure under certain circumstances can be fatal.
As previously indicated in Syllabus Point 2 of State ex rel. Rusen v. Hill, supra, the principal questions to be resolved in determining whether or not the failure to respond properly to a discovery request is fatal are whether the defendant was surprised by the non-disclosure of a material fact and whether the non-disclosure hampered the preparation and presentation of the defendant's case.