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Banks v. Dretke

Supreme Court of the United States

December 8, 2003, Argued ; February 24, 2004, Decided

No. 02-8286

Opinion

 [**1263]  Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court.

 [*674]  LEdHN[1A][] [1A] LEdHN[2A][] [2A] Petitioner Delma Banks, Jr., was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. Prior to trial, the State advised  [*675]  Banks's attorney there would be no need to litigate discovery issues, representing: "[W]e will, without the necessity of motions[,] provide you with all discovery to which you are entitled." App. 361, n 1; App. to Pet. for Cert. A4 (both sources' internal quotation marks omitted). Despite that undertaking, the State withheld evidence  [***1180]  that would have allowed Banks to discredit two essential prosecution witnesses. The State did not disclose that one of those witnesses was a paid police informant, nor did it disclose a pretrial transcript revealing that the other witness' trial testimony had been intensively coached by prosecutors and law enforcement officers.

Furthermore, the prosecution raised no red flag when the informant testified, untruthfully, that he never gave the police any statement and, indeed, had not talked to any police officer about the case until a few days before the trial. Instead of correcting the informant's false [****18]  statements, the prosecutor told the jury that the witness "ha[d] been open and honest with you in every way," App. 140, and that his testimony was of the "utmost significance," id., at 146. Similarly, the prosecution allowed the other key witness to convey, untruthfully, that his testimony was entirely unrehearsed. Through direct appeal and state collateral review proceedings, the State continued to hold secret the key witnesses' links to the police and allowed their false statements to stand uncorrected.

LEdHN[1B][] [1B] LEdHN[2B][] [2B] LEdHN[3A][] [3A] LEdHN[4A][] [4A] Ultimately, through discovery and an evidentiary hearing authorized in a federal habeas corpus proceeding, the long-suppressed evidence came to light. The District Court granted Banks relief from the death penalty, but the Court of Appeals reversed. In the latter court's judgment, Banks had documented his claims of prosecutorial misconduct too late and in the wrong forum; therefore he did not qualify for federal-court relief. We reverse that judgment. HN1[] When police or prosecutors conceal significant exculpatory or impeaching  [*676]  material in the State's possession, it is ordinarily incumbent on the State to set the record straight.

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540 U.S. 668 *; 124 S. Ct. 1256 **; 157 L. Ed. 2d 1166 ***; 2004 U.S. LEXIS 1621 ****; 72 U.S.L.W. 4193; 17 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 153

DELMA BANKS, Jr., Petitioner v. DOUG DRETKE, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTIONS DIVISION

Subsequent History: On remand at, Remanded by Banks v. Dretke, 383 F.3d 272, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 18053 (5th Cir. Tex., 2004)

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT.

Banks v. Cockrell, 48 Fed. Appx. 104, 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 19381 (5th Cir. Tex., 2002)

Disposition: 48 Fed. Appx. 104, reversed and remanded.

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Civil Procedure, Judgments, Relief From Judgments, Fraud, Misconduct & Misrepresentation, Criminal Law & Procedure, Sentencing, Appeals, Capital Punishment, Discovery & Inspection, Discovery Misconduct, General Overview, Counsel, Prosecutors, Capital Punishment, Aggravating Circumstances, Pleadings, Amendment of Pleadings, Conforming Pleadings to Evidence, Habeas Corpus, Procedure, Court Rules, Brady Materials, Procedural Defenses, Exhaustion of Remedies, Prerequisites, Evidentiary Hearings, Brady Claims, Legal Ethics, Prosecutorial Conduct, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Scope of Protection, Preliminary Proceedings, Pretrial Motions & Procedures, Suppression of Evidence, Acts & Mental States, Mens Rea, Willfulness, Prosecutorial Misconduct, Tests for Prosecutorial Misconduct, Evidence, Relevance, Preservation of Relevant Evidence, Exclusion & Preservation by Prosecutors, Duty of Disclosure, Exceptions to Default, Cause & Prejudice Standard, Discovery by Defendant, Informants, Search Warrants, Confidential Informants, Identity of Informants, Order & Timing of Petitions, Procedural Default, Burdens of Proof, Postconviction Proceedings, Government Privileges, Official Information Privilege, Informer Privilege, Trials, Witnesses, Credibility, Jury Instructions, Particular Instructions, Responses, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Waiver & Preservation of Defenses