Sup Court Disregards Exculpatory Information Illegally Withheld from Black Men by Prosecutors to Uphold Convictions

From [HERE] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday upheld the convictions [opinion, PDF] of several men who robbed, raped, kidnapped Catherine Fuller in the District of Columbia in 1984. Twenty-five years after being convicted in Turner, et al. v. United States [opinion, PDF], Turner and several other defendants moved to have their sentences vacated on the assertion that the government violated the rule of law from Brady v. Maryland [opinion, PDF] by withholding exculpatory evidence.

Brady information “is any information in the possession of the government -- broadly defined to include all Executive Branch agencies -- that relates to guilt or punishment and that tends to help the defense by either bolstering the defense case or impeaching potential prosecution witnesses. It covers both exculpatory and impeachment evidence. The government is obligated to disclose all evidence relating to guilt or punishment which might be reasonably considered favorable to the defendant's case, that is, all favorable evidence that is itself admissible or that is likely to lead to favorable evidence that would be admissible, or that could be used to impeach a prosecution witness. Where doubt exists as to the usefulness of the evidence to the defendant, the government must resolve all such doubts in favor of full disclosure.See United States v. Safavian, 233 F.R.D. 12,15 (D.D.C. 2005).

The case was decided on the testimonies given by several members of the group, some of whom pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the government. The testimonies corroborated each other with minor inconsistencies. Each of the defendants who testified attempted a "not me, maybe them defense, namely, that he was not part of the group that attacked Fuller." Approximately 11 weeks before the trial, a prosecutor learned of notes that concerned the murder, which were taken during two interviews with Ammie Davis who had been arrested a few weeks after Fuller's murder. In an interview with the prosecutor, Davis stated she only saw one person in the vicinity where Fuller's murder took place around the time she was purportedly attacked. The prosecutor admitted to not disclosing the interview because Davis was "playful" and "not serious" and that he found her to be "totally incredible." The court found that the new evidence was "not material" and held that it would not have changed the verdict. "Considering the withheld evidence in the context of the entire record, however, we conclude that it is too little, too weak, or too distant from the main evidentiary points to meet Brady's standards." Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented stating, "Had the defendants offered a unified counternarrative, based on the withheld evidence, one or more jurors could well have concluded that the Government had not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt."

The court agreed to hear the consolidated cases of Turner, et al. v. United States and Overton v. United States [docket files] in December and heard arguments [JURIST reports] in March.