In 2015, Terrell Gills was arrested on charges related to a Dunkin’ Donuts robbery in Queens, based on a partial DNA match. His attorney’s investigation yielded news articles about two other Dunkin’ Donuts robberies in the same area, which took place in the same week. In the eighteen months following his arraignment, Mr. Gills was incarcerated at Rikers Island because he was unable to afford his $10,000 bail. During that period, Mr. Gills’s attorney made repeated requests for information related to the other two robberies. It was not until four days before trial that the prosecution disclosed reports from the arresting officers which revealed that a different defendant had been arrested and pleaded guilty to the other two robberies. Upon being interviewed by Mr. Gills’s attorney, the other defendant confessed to the third robbery with which Mr. Gills was charged.The trial went forward, and Mr. Gills was acquitted.
Mr. Gills’s case is an outlier not because discovery was withheld until less than a week before trial, but rather because he did not plead guilty. Statistically, in the vast majority of cases, a defendant in Mr. Gills’s situation would have taken a guilty plea, which would have included a waiver of the right to discovery. New York Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) article 245, which came into effect in January 2020, introduced sweeping changes to criminal discovery procedure in New York, which would have prevented the eighteen-month delay before the disclosure of arrest reports.