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United States v. Bagley

Supreme Court of the United States

March 20, 1985, Argued ; July 2, 1985, Decided

No. 84-48

Opinion

 [*669]   [***486]   [**3377]  JUSTICE BLACKMUN announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion of the Court except as to Part III.

 In Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963), this Court held that "the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or punishment." The issue in the present case concerns the standard of materiality to be applied in determining whether a conviction should be reversed because the prosecutor failed to disclose requested evidence that could have been used to impeach Government witnesses.

In October 1977, respondent Hughes Anderson Bagley was indicted in the Western District of Washington on 15 charges of violating federal narcotics and firearms statutes. On November 18, 24 days before trial, respondent filed a discovery motion. The sixth paragraph of that motion requested:

"The names and addresses of witnesses that the government intends to call at trial. Also the prior criminal records of witnesses,  [****7]  and any deals, promises or inducements  [*670]  made to witnesses in exchange for their testimony." App. 18. 2

The Government's two principal witnesses at the trial were James F. O'Connor and Donald E. Mitchell. O'Connor and Mitchell were state law enforcement officers employed by the Milwaukee Railroad as private security guards. Between April and June 1977, they assisted the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) in conducting an undercover investigation of respondent.

 The Government's response to the discovery motion did not disclose that any "deals, promises [****8]  or inducements" had been made to O'Connor or Mitchell. In apparent reply to a request in the motion's ninth paragraph for "[copies] of all Jencks Act material," 3 the Government produced a series of affidavits that O'Connor and Mitchell had signed between April 12 and May 4, 1977, while the undercover investigation was in progress. These affidavits recounted in detail the undercover dealings that O'Connor and Mitchell were having at the time with respondent. Each affidavit concluded with the statement, "I made this statement freely and voluntarily without any threats or rewards, or promises of reward having been made to me in return for it." 4

 [****9]   Respondent waived his right to a  [***487]  jury trial and was tried before the court in December 1977. At the trial, O'Connor  [*671]  and Mitchell testified about both the firearms and the narcotics charges. On December 23, the court found respondent guilty on the narcotics charges, but not guilty on the firearms charges.

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473 U.S. 667 *; 105 S. Ct. 3375 **; 87 L. Ed. 2d 481 ***; 1985 U.S. LEXIS 130 ****; 53 U.S.L.W. 5084

UNITED STATES v. BAGLEY

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

Disposition:  719 F.2d 1462, reversed and remanded.

CORE TERMS

witnesses, disclosure, disclose, favorable evidence, cases, court of appeals, nondisclosure, defense counsel, guilt, failure to disclose, trier of fact, suppression, promises, cross-examination, inducements, reward, constitutional error, harmless, exculpatory evidence, due process, convictions, specific request, false testimony, discovery, reasonable probability, outcome of the trial, constitutional duty, impeaching evidence, new trial, prosecutorial

Criminal Law & Procedure, Discovery & Inspection, Brady Materials, Duty of Disclosure, General Overview, Preliminary Proceedings, Pretrial Motions & Procedures, Suppression of Evidence, Brady Claims, Trials, Defendant's Rights, Right to Fair Trial, Evidence, Relevance, Preservation of Relevant Evidence, Exclusion & Preservation by Prosecutors, Witnesses, Impeachment, Credibility, Appeals, Reversible Error, Standards of Review, Substantial Evidence