The Commonwealth is under no obligation to prepare written transcripts of videotaped victim interviews for a criminal defendant, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held in Com. v. Robinson, __ A.3d __ (No. 38 EDA 2015, filed August 3, 2015). The appellees/defendants in this case were charged with numerous offenses stemming from the physical and sexual abuse of minors. During discovery, the Commonwealth produced DVD copies of forensic interviews of the victims conducted by the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance. Appellees filed motions to compel verbatim written transcripts of the interviews, alleging they were necessary for effective cross-examination and impeachment of the victims. The trial court granted the motions and ordered the Commonwealth to transcribe the interviews. When the Commonwealth demurred, the court precluded the victims from testifying at appellees’ trials. The Commonwealth appealed.
The Superior Court, through President Judge Gantman, reversed and held that the trial court abused its discretion in suppressing the victims’ testimony and effectively dismissing the charges against appellees. The Court noted that the sanction of dismissal is typically reserved for cases involving egregious actions by the Commonwealth that cause demonstrable prejudice to the defendant. This was not such a case. Moreover, the Court observed, criminal defendants have no general right of discovery and the Commonwealth has no duty to provide evidence in a form convenient for the defense. Once the Commonwealth produced the DVD copies of the interviews, the evidence was available to appellees in a source other than a written transcript, which is all that is required under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and its progeny.