At arraignment, John Doe will be provided with a copy of the indictment against him. After entering a plea of not guilty thereto, he will enter the pre-trial discovery phase of the proceedings. During this period, he will discover much about the Government’s case against him and should be placed in a position to make a reasonable decision as to whether he should proceed to trial by jury or negotiate for himself a plea to reduced charges.
If the indictment is vague or without sufficient detail to protect Doe against a prosecution for the same offense at a later date Doe may be able to obtain a bill of particulars. Additionally, he will be entitled to all Rule 16 material in the Government’s possession on a continuing basis. He may or may not receive any Brady material. If he intends to rely on an insanity defense or otherwise intends to offer expert opinion on his mental condition at the time of the offense, he will have to file written notice with the Court and the prosecution of this intention. He may also be served with a demand for notice of an alibi defense.
If the defendant elects to plea bargain with the Government, he may never receive any Jencks material. However, if he does not plea bargain prior to Jencks disclosures, plea offers by the Government will probably have been long withdrawn.
Using all discoverable material at his disposal and coupling this with his own knowledge of the facts of his case, a criminal defendant usually will know exactly where he stands just prior to any scheduled trial. After seeking advice from his attorney as to factual and legal defenses available to him, and if the case has not been dismissed pre-trial because of any legal error by the Government, the next decision for Doe is the ultimate decision: either he plea bargains with the Government (if a bargain is offered) and enters a plea of guilty or he proceeds to trial. As previously discussed, many considerations will determine how this decision is made. Whatever decision is made, however, it certainly will be an informed decision if made after preliminary discovery proceedings have taken place.