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State ex rel. Helm v. Superior Court of Cochise County

Supreme Court of Arizona

November 29, 1961

STATE of Arizona ex rel. Lloyd C. HELM, County Attorney Cochise County, Petitioner,
SUPERIOR COURT OF COCHISE COUNTY, Honorable Anthony T. Deddens, Judge thereof, Respondent.

In Banc.

Lloyd C. Helm, County Atty. Cochise County, Bisbee, for petitioner.

Robert J. Snyder, Jr., Sierra Vista, for respondent.

[90 Ariz. 134] UDALL, Justice.

This is a proceeding for a writ of prohibition commanding Superior Court Judge Anthony T. Deddens to desist from ordering petitioner, County Attorney of Cochise County, to produce for pretrial inspection by defendant a medical report of the results of a blood alcohol test. Defendant, Clarence Edward Wine, had submitted to balloon and blood alcohol tests immediately after being arrested on July 8, 1961 in connection with the death of one Gary Bingham. [1]

An information filed against defendant on August 9, 1961 charged him with manslaughter and driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated. On August 17, 1961 defendant by his counsel moved for a bill of particulars by which he sought to ascertain, inter alia, the types and results of any tests made to establish the fact of his intoxication. The motion was denied with respect to the names and results of the tests on August 28, 1961. [2]

The residue of the whole blood sample drawn from defendant's body on July 8, 1961 was stored in a laboratory freezer until disposed of by a chemist on September 10, 1961. Defendant's motion for an order permitting pretrial inspection of the laboratory report was made on October 2, 1961 and granted on October 9, 1961. [3]

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Two questions are presented: (1) Did the trial court have discretionary power to provide defendant with an opportunity to inspect the medical report; and (2) if so, was there nevertheless an abuse of discretion in entering the order complained of here?

Pretrial discovery in criminal cases was unknown at common law. Rex v. Holland, 4 Durn. & E. 691, 100 Eng.Rep. 1248 (K.B. 1792). And the extensive legislative reforms in English criminal procedure [4] have not, generally speaking, been adopted in this country. People ex rel. Lemon v. Supreme Court of State of New York, 245 N.Y. 24, 156 N.E. 84, 52 A.L.R. 200 (1927). Instead, the general rule developed by the various state courts is that a request for pretrial inspection of prosecution evidence [90 Ariz. 135] is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court. [5]

In State ex rel. Mahoney v. Superior Court of Maricopa County, 78 Ariz. 74, 275 P.2d 887 (1954), a homicide case, defendant moved for production of and an opportunity to inspect (1) documents and papers constituting the 'work product' of the prosecutor and (2) 'tangible physical objects such as pistols, a lead slug taken from the body of the man whom he was accused of killing; a shirt, car keys, etc.' The trial court properly denied the motion as to (1) and granted it as to (2). This court sustained the order 'under the inherent powers of the court necessary to the due administration of justice.' 78 Ariz. at 77, 275 P.2d at 889. Cf. State ex rel. Andrews v. Superior Court of Maricopa County, 39 Ariz. 242, 250, 5 P.2d 192, 195 (1931).

Two years later in State ex rel. Polley v. Superior Court of Santa Cruz County [6] this court (3-2) again found support for such an order in a trial court's 'inherent powers.' In Polley, defendant was accused of murdering another during a shooting in which defendant was also wounded. While convalescing in a hospital he answered certain questions propounded by the county attorney; the questions and answers were recorded by a court reporter.

Defendant's motion for pretrial inspection of the stenographic transcript of the hospital conversation was allowed. In refusing to grant a writ of prohibition to the county attorney this court held that the trial court had jurisdiction to compel production 'it the order in question were found to be essential to the due administration of justice * * *.' [7]

In the interim between Mahoney and Polley this court, pursuant to Section 19-202 of the 1939 Code (A.R.S. § 12-109 (1956)), adopted Rule 195 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure. Rule 195, identical for all practical purposes to Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, 18 U.S.C.A., provides:

'Upon motion of a defendant at any time after the filing of the indictment [90 Ariz. 136]

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or information, the court may order the county attorney to permit the defendant to inspect and copy or photograph designated books, papers, documents or tangible objects, obtained from or belonging to the defendant or obtained from others by seizure or by process, upon a showing that the items sought may be material to the preparation of his defense and that the request is reasonable. The order shall specify the time, place and manner of making ...

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