Court Denies Criminal Defendant Access to Government ESI Without Watermarks
In the criminal case U.S. v. Watts, Case No. 14-40063 (S.D. Ill., February 25, 2016), Defendant filed a motion to compel discovery. Defendant, charged with killing two people in a robbery, sought production of multiple items, including 1) unredacted discovery (which the court denied); 2) electronic discovery; 3) DNA evidence (which the court denied); and 4) other information (which the court denied).
With respect to the electronic discovery, Defendant took issue with certain electronically stored information (ESI) produced by the government, as these items contained watermarks and case identification stamps that prevented Defendant’s attorney from using case management software to maintain and view it. Defendant had previously filed an unsuccessful motion to compel a password to access the documents without the marks, and he again sought the password, arguing that the password would be more “cost-effective” for his defense team. The prosecution argued that the court had already ruled on the issue in Plaintiff’s first motion to compel and that no changed circumstances existed to warrant reconsideration.
The court agreed with the government, holding that it had already considered and ruled on the issue in the previous motion. The court found that Defendant had provided “no compelling reason” to reconsider the ruling, thus denying that portion of the motion.