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AG’s office says Judge Camacho allows ‘premature discovery’

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THE Office of the Attorney General’s criminal division is questioning Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho’s practice of allowing “premature discovery” in some cases.

Chief prosecutor John Bradley, in an email to Variety, said: “We are taking the position that Judge Camacho is the only trial judge considering this type of premature discovery, resulting in substantial delays in preliminary hearings.”

If necessary, the AG’s office will seek the intervention of the Supreme Court, Bradley added.

He mentioned a case involving a 68-year-old man accused of trying to run over another man with a car and repeatedly ramming a parked vehicle in Kagman.

Bradley said the Office of the Public Defender requested the court to order the AG’s office to produce all notes, police reports, and videos taken by the government in that case. This resulted in the suspension of the preliminary hearing.

This same type of request also occurred  in another case involving Judge Camacho, “and we are opposing it as well,” Bradley said, adding that “this is a developing issue.”

He said,  “Victims of crime deserve a timely presentation of a criminal case consistent with the rules established by law. A preliminary hearing should not be used for anything more than a determination of probable cause. All other issues can be raised and resolved in front of the judge properly assigned to hear the complete case. This type of motion at a preliminary hearing is currently only occurring before Judge Camacho and is opposed by the Commonwealth because it is contrary to CNMI law and causes substantial delay in the resolution of cases.”

No other judge is issuing a ruling requiring discovery at a preliminary hearing, the chief prosecutor reiterated.

Bradley said, “Discovery begins under CNMI law after a defendant is arraigned, not at a preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing is merely a short presentation of information to show the judge that there is sufficient information available to believe the defendant likely committed the offense. Probable cause is a very low standard, unlike the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.”

Bradley mentioned another case, this time involving a sexual assault of a minor allegation.

The AG’s office in that case, he said, is opposing the defense request to compel production of tangible materials used by law enforcement to establish probable cause.

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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