Suppression of Evidence/False Testimony

Suppression Of Exculpatory Evidence/presentation Of False Or Misleading Evidence

In the landmark case of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), the Supreme Court declared that, regardless of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution, the suppression of evidence favorable to the accused violates due process where the evidence is material to either guilt or penalty.

In the almost fifty years since the Brady decision, the scope of its mandate has been found to include both direct evidence and impeachment evidence that is favorable to the defendant. The duty of disclosure is not limited to evidence in the actual possession of the prosecutor. Rather, it extends to evidence in the possession of each and every member of the prosecution team, which includes investigative and other government agencies. Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419 (1995); see also Strickler v. Greene , 527 U.S. 263, 275 n. 12 (1999).

A failure on the part of the government to disclose favorable evidence requires a new trial, or a new sentencing hearing, if disclosure of the evidence creates a reasonable probability of a different result. As the Supreme Court explained in Kyles, "the adjective is important," and "[t]he question is not whether the defendant would more likely than not have received a different verdict with the evidence, but whether in its absence he received a fair trial, understood as a trial resulting in a verdict worthy of confidence." Kyles, 514 U.S. at 434.

Long ago, the Supreme Court made clear that deliberate deception of a court and jurors by the presentation of known false evidence is incompatible with "rudimentary demands of justice." Mooney v. Holohan, 294 U.S. 103, 112 (1935). In Napue v. Illinois, 360 U.S. 264 (1959), the Supreme Court reiterated that a conviction obtained through use of false testimony, known to be such by representatives of the State, is a denial of due process. The Court further ruled that there is also a denial of due process when the State, though not soliciting false evidence, allows it to go uncorrected when it appears. In cases involving false or misleading testimony, a new trial is required if "the false testimony could . . . in any reasonable likelihood have affected the judgment of the jury . . . ." Napue, 360 U.S. at 271.

PDF iconSuccessful Brady and Napue Cases (updated September 6, 2017)

PDF iconCases Remanded Based on Brady Claims (updated September 2009)

PDF iconUnsuccessful But Instructive Brady Cases (updated September 2009)