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What are Giglio letters and how can they impact a criminal case?

The term “Giglio letter” is not well known in the general public. However, these letters can make a significant difference in a criminal case in North Carolina. A Giglio letter is a document written by a prosecutor when he or she finds out about a law enforcement officer who may not be credible on the stand. With this documented lack of credibility, the law enforcement officer is very unlikely to be used as a witness in a trial. 

Why does credibility of law enforcement matter in a trail? 

The credibility of all law enforcement professionals involved in an arrest, and any searches leading up to that arrest, are of great interest in a criminal defense. Giglio letters are a systematic way for the prosecution to prevent officers who might have credibility issues from handling evidence or making arrests. If someone who has received such a letter is found to be closely engaged in an investigation, it may be of interest to the defense. 

How can people know who has a Giglio letter? 

Currently, there is no formal system for tracking the letters. There is also no reporting, so the number of letters in circulation are unknown. However, lawmakers are currently working on bills that would change this, so that agencies could know about any credibility issues when hiring officers. 

In other states, such as Florida and South Carolina, lists of officers considered uncredible are publicly available. This has raised some concerns about criminal defense implications and public interest. Defenders of the current system say letters are rarely issued and are provided to the defense if they are relevant to the case. This is another example of why having a good criminal defense lawyer is critical for those facing charges in North Carolina. 

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