ACLU, NYCLU File Amicus Supporting Delay of Federal Capital Trial Where Government Withheld Evidence

The amicus argues Sayfullo Saipov’s defense team needs additional time to investigate mitigating evidence the federal government withheld for years to mount an effective defense

October 7, 2022 11:00 am

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NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union and Advancing Real Change are supporting federal capital defendant Sayfullo Saipov’s request to delay his imminent trial because the government failed to disclose mitigating evidence — in violation of its constitutional obligation under the rule of Brady v. Maryland.

To mount an effective defense in a death penalty trial, defense counsel must have time to investigate mitigating evidence. In a capital trial, this can often be a yearslong process of exhaustive research, investigation and witness interviews. However, in Mr. Saipov’s case, the federal government suppressed mitigating evidence they’ve had in their possession for years until the eve of his capital trial.

In an amicus brief filed yesterday, the ACLU and NYCLU argue the government violated its constitutional obligation to disclose mitigating evidence, and its failure creates a significant risk of violating Mr. Saipov’s right to the effective assistance of counsel.

“The government’s suppression of this evidence has hamstrung defense trial preparation for years,” said Brian Stull, deputy director of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project. “The government’s revelation of possible witnesses and records in various states, and countries as far flung as Uzbekistan, triggers massive investigation obligations. Obtaining the relevant new information marks the beginning — not the end — of a competent mitigation investigation. And this investigation is vital to protecting Mr. Saipov’s right to the effective assistance of counsel.”

Mr. Saipov’s capital prosecution represents a reversal for President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland. President Biden ran on a platform that included ending the federal death penalty — recognizing its disparate racial impact and the dozens of innocent people who have been executed. Attorney General Garland just last year announced a moratorium of federal executions — yet the Department of Justice continues to seek the death penalty for Mr. Saipov.

“Everyone is entitled to a fair day in court, and nowhere is this more important than a capital case where the stakes are life and death,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “A fair day in court requires defendants get to see the evidence against them, but here the government hid what it had. The court should delay Mr. Saipov’s trial until he can mount a proper defense.”

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