(In US criminal proceedings) The Prosecution must provide all evidence against the Defendant to the Defense before the trial begins in the "Discovery process".

Is the Prosecution also required to explain the evidence and describe how they intend to use it?

For example, could they provide a big listing of cell-phone records and tower pings without detailing the significance of the records? Or must they also outline to the Defense how the cell phone data demonstrates the defendant's planning and movements before the alleged crime?

What if the meaning and significance of the evidence for the Prosecution evolves due to the Defense strategy?
Can the prosecution change their interpretation of the evidence without violating discovery rules?

2 Answers 2


The Crown's duty to disclose all materials and information, inculpatory or exculpatory, unless clearly irrelevant, does not extend to Crown "work product."

The "work product" privilege means that "notes and materials that involve the thought process and strategic or tactical considerations of Crown counsel in the preparation and presentation of its case" are not within the mandatory disclosure requirements. See Dudley v. British Columbia, 2016 BCCA 328.

However, the Crown will present its case first. It will present an opening statement laying out the theory of the case and explain the relevance of the evidence it will be presenting. It will call all of its evidence first and then close its case before the defence presents its case.


[t]he Crown must not be allowed to change the case it has presented once the accused has begun to answer the Crown’s case

R. v. G. (S.G.), [1997] 2 SCR 716, at para 38

  • 3
    This answer is generally correct in the United States, as well.
    – bdb484
    Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 19:34

Is the Prosecution also required to explain the evidence and describe how they intend to use it?

Generally not, although sometimes a disclosure of a potential witness must explain in a cursory manner, what pertinent knowledge the witness has related to the case.

For example, the prosecution, when disclosing Fredrick Gonzales Ho as a witness, might have to say something like "Mr. Ho witnessed the defendant stab the murder victim on the date alleged in the indictment" or "Mr. Ho is the custodian of records of Cellphone Co. who will authenticate as business records the cell phone record evidence of the prosecution which has also been disclosed by the prosecution."

The solid answer by Jen describing Canadian law is also a good description of U.S. law on the subject. The main differences between Canadian law and U.S. law on the question of discovery by the prosecution in a criminal case involve the sanctions, remedies, and procedures available if the obligation is breached by the prosecution. But, the actual disclosure obligation of the prosecution in a criminal case is essentially the same under U.S. law and Canadian law.

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