Supreme Judicial Court (May 20, 2008)

A defendant's blanket request for all of an arresting officer's police reports for a specific period of time, in an effort to prove racial profiling, is not by itself subject to automatic and mandatory discovery under Mass. R. Crim. P. 14(a)(1)(A).

In this case, the defendant was stopped for a marked lanes violation on a state highway. During the traffic stop, drugs were found and the defendant was subsequently indicted on trafficking charges. During the discovery process, the defendant filed a motion for production of all police reports for every motor vehicle stop conducted by the arresting trooper during the seven month period in which the defendant was stopped. The defendant argued that he was entitled to automatic, mandatory discovery of the requested information because "the Commonwealth and its agents, the State Police, have exclusive control over the documents that contain those statistics. " The judge allowed the defendant's motion for discovery and the Commonwealth filed a petition for relief pursuant to G.L. c. 211, § 3. A single justice denied the Commonwealth's petition, and the Commonwealth appealed from the single justice's ruling.

The SJC disagreed with the defendant, ruling that a categorical, and unsupported, request for all of an arresting officer's police reports, even for a reasonable period of time, cannot by itself, justify an automatic production order under Mass R. Crim. P. rule 14(a)(1)(A). The rule 14(a)(2) requirement that the evidence sought must be "material and relevant" extends to discovery summonsed from third parties pursuant to rule 17(a)(2). A defendant needs to make a preliminary showing by way of an affidavit containing reliable information demonstrating a reasonable basis to infer that profiling, and not a traffic violation alone, may have been the basis for the vehicle stop.

Note: Commonwealth v. Lora, also decided May 20, 2008, held that valid statistical evidence of racial profiling may be relevant and material to demonstrate that a particular traffic stop was unlawful.