People v. Chubbs
Court of Appeal of California
2015 WL 139069 (2015)
Shelley H. was murdered in 1977. In 2011, a forensics agency conducted a DNA test on swabs taken from Shelley. The DNA sample was found to be a match for Martell Chubbs (defendant). Chubbs was arrested and tried for murder. Chubbs filed a motion to compel discovery of the source code used in the software program that identified Chubbs. The government of California (plaintiff), on behalf of the developer of the software, filed an opposition motion. The government argued that the source code was a protected trade secret and that disclosure of the code would be financially devastating for the developer. Chubbs countered that the source code was essential to his defense because the DNA evidence was the only evidence against him. Without the source code, Chubbs claimed, there would be no way for Chubbs to determine what assumptions were made regarding the evidence and if those assumptions were appropriate. Chubbs argued that if a defendant in a criminal case seeks disclosure of a trade secret, the owner of the trade secret is not permitted to refuse disclosure. The developer of the software testified that the source code was not needed to assess the program’s reliability, and that publicly revealing the source code would allow competitors to easily copy the program. The lower court ruled that Chubbs’s right to confront and cross-examine witnesses required the production of the source code. The court stated that although the source code was a trade secret, a protective order could protect the developer’s interest. The government appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Willhite, J.)
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