Brady Violations and Materiality (Part 2)

by | Oct 9, 2017 | Blog, Criminal Law, Jail Time and Probation, Legal Procedures, Monmouth County, Ocean County, Weapons Charge

weapons chargesThe Turner Court held that the withheld evidence was not material under Brady. The Government does not contest petitioners’ claim that the withheld evidence was “favorable to the defense.” Petitioners and the Government, however, do contest the materiality of the undisclosed Brady information. Such “evidence is ‘material’ when there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” A ‘reasonable probability’ of a different result” is one in which the suppressed evidence “‘undermines confidence in the outcome of the trial. To make that determination, this Court “evaluates the withheld evidence” in the context of the entire record.

This portion of the majority’s holding all but encourages prosecutors to withhold exculpatory evidence. With law enforcement and trial practice being competitive enterprises, many prosecutors will succumb to the temptation to withhold evidence that hurts their case and/or helps the defense. This is because: (1) the suppressed evidence will often go unnoticed; and (2) even if discovered, the prosecutor can still rely on their office’s appellate attorneys to comb the record for evidence the suppressed evidence was immaterial.

Petitioners’ main argument is that, had they known about the withheld evidence, they could have challenged the Government’s basic group attack theory by raising an alternative theory, namely, that a single perpetrator (or two at most) had attacked Fuller. Considering the withheld evidence “in the context of the entire record,” that evidence is too little, too weak, or too distant from the main evidentiary points to meet Brady‘s standards.

A group attack was the very cornerstone of the Government’s case, and virtually every witness to the crime agreed that Fuller was killed by a large group of perpetrators. It is not reasonably probable that the withheld evidence could have led to a different result at trial.