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State v. Fauce

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 07-05-2012
Case #: A143601
Nakamoto, J. for the Court; Schuman, P.J.; and Wollheim, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/Publications/A143601.pdf

Constitutional Law: A due process violation exists when the state fails to preserve evidence that is known to be favorable to the defendant and hard for the defendant to produce otherwise. However, if the evidence is only known to be “potentially useful” and it is speculative whether the evidence is favorable, a defendant bears the burden to prove that the state’s failure to preserve such evidence was in bad faith.

Defendant was convicted for murder with a firearm. Defendant was a transient who had a conflict with the victim over a panhandling corner. Police found a black powder gun (the murder weapon) near Defendant’s camp. Later, police arrested Brad Green, another transient, and found a black powder gun on him. After Green passed a polygraph test, police returned the gun to Green and released him. Defendant argued that the State violated his due process rights by failing to preserve Green’s gun as evidence. The trial court held that because Green’s gun was only “potentially useful” to Defendant’s case, Defendant had the burden to prove the state’s failure to preserve the evidence was in bad faith. The Court of Appeals held that Defendant failed to prove that the State acted in bad faith because the State did investigate Green and the delays were caused by Defendant changing attorneys multiple times, thus Defendant's due process rights were not violated. The Court also held that the trial court erred in limiting the admissibility of the evidence of Green and his weapon, but this error was harmless because it would not have affected the verdict. Affirmed.