Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963)

2012-01-09 13:01:30

In Brady, the Supreme Court for the first time squarely recognized that the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause guarantees criminal defendants the right to be given favorable information in the possession of the prosecution or the police.

Brady admitted at his murder trial that he had participated in the crime but claimed that his confederate, Boblit, had actually committed the killing. After Brady was convicted and sentenced to death, his lawyers learned that the prosecution had withheld a statement Boblit made to the authorities before Brady’s trial in which Boblit confirmed that he was the killer. The Maryland Court of Appeals, reasoning that Brady’s admission that he had participated in the killing conclusively established his guilt, nonetheless ruled that the withheld statement was relevant to the question of punishment. Therefore, the state court granted Brady a new Sentencing hearing.

Brady appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the withheld statement also entitled him to a new trial, but the Court rejected his argument by a vote of seven to two. The Court, however, used Brady’s case to broadly hold that if the prosecution has any information favorable to the defendant and material to his or her guilt or punishment, due process requires the prosecution to turn it over to the defense. In a series of subsequent cases, including United States v. Agurs, Pennsylvania v. Ritchie, and Arizona v. Youngblood, the Court has reaffirmed, but also limited, the defendant’s constitutional right to discovery of favorable information.


References and Further Reading

  • Imwinkelried, Edwin, and Norman Garland, 2d ed. Exculpatory Evidence. Charlottesville, VA: Michie, 1996
  • Stacy, Tom, The Search for Truth in Constitutional Criminal Procedure, Columbia Law Review 91 (1991): 1369

Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Arizona v. Youngblood, 488 U.S. 51 (1988) 
  • Pennsylvania v. Richie, 480 U.S. 39 (1987) 
  • United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97 (1976) 

See also Arizona v. Youngblood, 488 U.S. 51 (1988); Due Process; Fourteenth Amendment; United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97 (1976)