The Idaho Department of Correction has responded to a subpoena and turned over hundreds of pages of previously undisclosed evidence just weeks before a case was set to go to trial.
The case is that of Robert Mendez, 38, an inmate who prosecutors say broke another inmate’s jaw in May 2018. He is charged with aggravated battery, which is the same crime for which he was in prison to begin with.
The case had initially been set for trial May 30. About a month before that, a judge in a different case declared a mistrial after learning that IDOC officials had withheld records. That prompted the Ada County prosecutor in Mendez’s case, Brent Ferguson, to physically inspect department files himself. He found correction officials in Mendez’s case, too, had not turned over information they should have.
The case has since been in limbo, as Ferguson filed a subpoena on May 2 and Reed Smith, Mendez’s attorney, waited to receive the new evidence himself.
He did finally receive it Wednesday morning, he said in court. It was voluminous.
“I think it’s over (200 or) 300 pages, something like that,” Smith told 4th District Court Judge Nancy Baskin.
Among those records were six documents that department officials and attorneys at the Idaho Office of Attorney General were concerned about handing over to Mendez. Those six documents — numbering 15 to 20 pages, Ferguson estimated — contain information about prison gangs and how department officials combat them.
The records “endanger other inmates mentioned in the documents,” according to a motion Ferguson filed Tuesday.
“To be perfectly honest, Your Honor, what the state is ultimately going to ask for is that the defendant not be given access to them, but that Mr. Smith have them, is what I’m asking for,” Ferguson said.
Smith didn’t have qualms with the idea, saying the documents in question weren’t germane to Mendez’s case specifically.
After Ferguson first learned the department hadn’t turned over all relevant evidence, attorneys asked to cancel the scheduled trial and said they were working toward a plea agreement. That agreement was pushed back as they waited to receive the subpoenaed documents.
On Wednesday, Smith asked for yet another two weeks to review the evidence before Mendez made a decision on whether to accept a plea deal in the case.
Baskin granted that request and scheduled a court date in the case for June 13.