Prior to a criminal trial in Tennessee and other states, the discovery process will allow people to obtain information that may help with their defense. For instance, it may be possible to depose a witness under oath or receive key documents from the prosecution. Unlike in a civil case, documents must generally be provided to the defendant whether that person asks for them or not.
As a general rule, a defendant is entitled to receive copies of police reports, witness statements or financial records. During discovery, it may be necessary for a defendant to inform the prosecutor about any special defenses that he or she will use in a case. For example, a person who plans to plead guilty by reason of insanity likely has an obligation to disclose that fact. If either party is planning on using an expert witness, that may need to be revealed before a trial starts.
In some cases, those who are involved will be required to answer questions in writing. An individual will also be asked to sign a statement saying that he or she is telling the truth. A request for admission asks a person to acknowledge that a statement is true without having to bring it up at trial. This may help move the case along in a more timely manner.
Those who are charged with a crime are generally allowed to hire a criminal defense attorneys to help them. An attorney may be able to take steps during the discovery process to weaken the case against the defendant. An attorney may also cast doubt upon evidence introduced at trial in an effort to obtain a favorable outcome.