When No Amount of Brady Will Do

And if the prosecution fails to provide the material required hereunder, and it’s only discovered after the defendant has been convicted, it will be left to the judge, as protector of the Constitution, to decide whether it is sufficiently exculpatory, sufficiently material, to decide whether there is a sufficient probability that, had it been disclosed, the jury would have returned a verdict of “not guilty.”  Chances of that ever happening are slim to none. Heh. Got ya.

— Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, William O. Douglas, Brady v. Maryland (first draft)

How Caddo Parish Judge Katherine Clark Dorroh got her hands on the draft opinion is a mystery, but she certainly put it to use in her opinion in Louisiana v. Williams.

In an opinion that reads like a parody of the absurd results courts can reach in applying the doctrine of “materiality” in Brady claims, a judge in Louisiana held late last month that witness statements placing a murder weapon in the hands of a man other than the defendant–both before and after the crime–are “not material” evidence, and would not have affected the outcome of the trial.

The ruling, from Katherine Clark Dorroh, a district judge in Caddo Parish, comes in the case of Corey Williams, a 16 year old at the time of the murder. Williams, who has an IQ of 68, was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1998 killing and robbery of a pizza delivery man based chiefly on his own confession, a confession obtained after hours of interrogation, and after his mother had been sent home from the police station.

Strong words? Very strong, as in who do you have to blow in Caddo County to get Brady material.  The answer, according to Dorroh, is it doesn’t matter, because there is nothing, no amount of Brady, absolutely nothing, that will be sufficient to make the prosecution pay for its concealment.

Among the evidence not disclosed in the “summaries” to the defense were:

  • a witness statement that one of the older men had possession of the gun before the crime
  • witness statements that one of the older men had possession of the gun immediately after the crime
  • a witness statement that one of the older men who split the proceeds of the robbery had set up the murder, and that his brother had committed the murder
  • Police detective statements during interviews that they believed Williams had been set up by the older men and was not guilty of the crime
  • Witness statements that one of the older men and members of his family had threatened other witnesses into altering their accounts of the crime to police
  • Witness statements that one of the older men had confessed to being involved in the crime

Enough?  Get real.  Judge Dorrah has parsed each individual deprivation and, because of her magical powers, ruled as to each flagrant violation, “DENIED.”  She left off the word “bitches” in her final draft.  It’s never a good idea to let that first draft go out of the door.  But her final draft was far better framed to show how wonderfully fair and smart the judge could be.

Exculpatory evidence is material if there is “a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” State v. Marshall, 660 SO.2d 819, quoting United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 682 (1985). A “reasonable probability” is a probability “sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome [of the trial].” Id. at 825. Specifically, the court must examine all of the evidence collectively and determine whether the excluded evidence — had it been disclosed — would have made a different result reasonably probable. Id. at 826. A showing of materiality of by preponderance that the disclosure of the suppressed evidence would have resulted in acquittal is not required. Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419 (1995).

Maybe a quibble, but otherwise a sound explication of law. And so?

Petitioner argues that these statements contain several contradi~tory stories, which would be ripe for impeachm~nt purposes. As noted in Giglio, Kyles, and Bagley, evidence that impeaches the credibility of prosecution witnesses falls within the parameters of Brady and should be disclosed. United States v Bagley, 473 U.S. 667 (1985). The statements at issue pertain to witness  accounts of what happened during the events surrounding the shooting of the victim.

And so?

The Court has reviewed the statement of Patrick Anthony in detail, along with all of the other statements made by various witnes~es that were attached to Petitioner’s June 1,2015 pleading. The portion where Mr. Anthony says he sees someone give the gun to “Rapist” is not clear, nor is it definitive as to time. Mr. Anthony also appears to be speculating that “Rapist” later gave the gun to Corey Williams. This Court concludes the evidence that was excluded is not material because there is no showing of a “reasonable probability that had the evidence been disclosed, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” State v. Marshall supra. An examination of all the evidence collectively leads the Court to conclude that the Petitioner had copies of the police summaries of Mr. Anthony’s statement, the summarized statements were not different from the actual statements and Petitioner’s claims concerning the statements of Patrick Anthony are without merit.

* * *

In any event, the Court does not find that the statement that was suppressed was material or exculpatory. For these reasons Petitioner’s claim is DENIED.

Testimony?  Who needs the crucible of cross-examination?  Credibility? Feh. Defense lawyer? It’s not like they have anything to do with the effective use of actual evidence. Jury? What judge doesn’t know who’s guilty better than those mopes on the jury?

And who cares what the cops thought, when the defendant confessed.

Nor does the blank assertion that Corey Williams confession obviates entirely the relevance of the investigating detectives’ own statements that they believed Williamshad not committed the crime.“Corey Williams confessed to the murder,” Judge Dorroh wrote. “He admitted his guilt. The Court finds Petitioner’s claims concerning police opinions to be without merit.”

Evidence shows that detectives believed that a 16 year old boy with an IQ of 68 had been set up by three older men present at the scene, who took the money from the victim and disposed of the murder weapon, yet we are to believe that this information would have no effect on a defense which was intent on showing that one of these men was in fact responsible for the murder.

Dorrah’s decision is being appealed, because that will surely correct this flagrant disregard for Brady.  And Wild Bill Douglas is somewhere laughing his butt off at the lulz his practical joke has wrought.

5 thoughts on “When No Amount of Brady Will Do

  1. Mort

    More depressing still, even if the Judge’s decision gets overturned (though I’m not putting money on it because, you know, cynic), nothing will happen to her. And nothing will happen to the people who withheld Brady material.

    The only people who think Brady works as intended are prosecutors and judges…

  2. PDB

    You can’t rely on the state court’s post-conviction process to resolve this. State court judges are a joke in this regard. My guess is that the appellate and supreme courts of LA will affirm. This is going to have to go to federal habeas. Fortunately, since it’s a death case, the defendant will have a lawyer. I hope it’s a good one.

  3. losingtrader

    C’mon , it’s Louisiana, a state where the family tree is entirely vertical:
    Duck Dynasty, for example.

  4. marc

    Brady only includes material that is material. By that definition, once the materiality threshold is met how do the judges know what the jury would have found pivotal of all the possible material they could consider? And the Brady inquiry ignores investigative pathways. It’s not just that it would be nice to say “the government’s witness is the real killer” but the disclosed material could allow the attorney to run ballistics and forensics on the withheld material info that could lead to more exculpatory evidence and on and on.

    Why is the Brady assumption that the material is strictly argumentative as to whether the jury would be persuaded versus what the CDL could have further ascertained and that realm of possibilities?

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