In the Supremes-10012012

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Smith v. Cain is of importance to military practitioners because of the always issue of access to “CID” notes and case files.  This is a case about discovery. Apparently the investigators’ notes contained conflicting information to that testified to by the star prosecution witness.

The Supremes issued an opinion in Smith v. Cain this morning – 8-1, Thomas dissenting.

Smith requested that his conviction be vacated, arguing inter alia, that the prosecution’s failure to disclose Ronquillo’s notes violated this Court’s decision in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U. S. 83 (1963).  The state trial court rejected Smith’s  Brady claim, and the Louisiana Court of Appeal and Louisiana Supreme Court denied review.  We granted certiorari, 564 U. S. ___ (2011), and now reverse. . . .

The State does not dispute that Boatner’s statements in Ronquillo’s notes were favorable to Smith and that those statements were not disclosed to him. The sole question before us is thus whether Boatner’s statements were material to the determination of Smith’s guilt. We have explained that “evidence is ‘material’ within the meaning of  Brady [on appeal] when there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed, the result of the proceeding would have been different.”  Cone  v.  Bell, 556 U. S. 449, 469–470 (2009).  A reasonable probability does not mean that the defendant “would more likely than not have received a different verdict with the evidence,” only that the likelihood of a different result is great enough to “undermine[] confidence in the outcome of the trial.” Kyles  v. Whitley, 514 U. S. 419, 434 (1995) (internal quotation marks omitted).  (Emphasis added.)

We have observed that evidence impeaching an eyewitness may not be material if the State’s other evidence is strong enough to sustain confidence in the verdict. See United States v. Agurs, 427 U. S. 97, 112–113, and n. 21 (1976). That is not the case here.  Boatner’s testimony was the  only evidence linking Smith to the crime.

Here is a  link to SCOTUSBlog case materials.

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