Your Right to Get Favorable Evidence From CPS in CACI Cases

Throughout this article, we will be discussing a famous United States Supreme Court case called Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).

In this landmark case, the court discussed a criminal defendant's right to see all evidence favorable to him being held by the government.

In response, the court said:

"We now hold 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 to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.

The principle [involved] is not punishment of society for misdeeds of a prosecutor but avoidance of an unfair trial to the accused. Society wins not only when the guilty are convicted, but when criminal trials are fair; our system of the administration of justice suffers when any accused is treated unfairly." (See Brady v. Maryland, 373 US 83, 87 (1973)."

With all that said, let's examine how the Brady v. Maryland case has played out in the legal system since the original ruling. There are various examples where the law has worked in favor of a defendant. Alternatively, there have been occasions where citing Brady hasn't held the weight one might think it should to help the accused.

The Story of Brady v. Maryland

We'll be citing findings from the following published article: Walter H. Ohar, Exploring the Limits of Brady v. Maryland: Criminal Discovery as a Due Process Right in Access to Police Investigations and State Crime Laboratories, 15 U. Rich. L. Rev. 189 (1980).

Before we look at how Brady v. Maryland impacted other scenarios, it's important to know how the law came into play.

Brady had already been found guilty of 1st-degree murder during a bank robbery and was looking to avoid the death penalty. His defense's aim was to prove his accomplice – who was yet to be tried – had committed the murder. Brady's attorney needed the accomplice's statement from the government. He did get the statements—but none with any confession.

Obviously, if the accomplice had confessed, that would have been favorable to Brady, and the government should have been obligated to provide Brady’s lawyer with that confession so that he could prove his innocence.

How Has Brady v. Maryland Been Successfully Applied in Other Cases?

One case, Meers v. Wilkins, saw the affidavits of two eyewitnesses to a robbery being suppressed. However, the witnesses never identified the accused as the one who committed the crime.

It was ruled that although the defense counsel failed to request evidence, it did not stop the government from disclosing it, and the government was obligated to provide it. Given everything involved in the case, this issue came down to fundamental fairness; it’s unfair for the government to refuse to give evidence to the accused that would be favorable to the accused.

Another scenario, Levin v. Katzenbach – a conspiracy trial – saw testimony that would have contradicted other government witnesses get suppressed. The court decided that a criminal trial wasn't a “game of wits” that depended on the smarts or resources available to opposing counsel. The court ultimately said if the government didn’t provide the favorable evidence to the accused simply out of mere negligence, then that was excusable, but if it was intentional on the government’s part, that was not excusable under the Constitution.

How Has Brady v. Maryland Been Unsuccessfully Applied in Other Cases?

In the case of United States v. Agers, the defendant was convicted of second-degree murder for killing her romantic partner.

However, the prosecutor failed to disclose the victim's notable criminal record.

Three months after the ruling, the defendant's attorney filed a motion for a new trial. The defense argued that having access to this information would have given credence to the claims that their client was merely defending herself.

The ruling did not end up in the defendant's favor.

Although the prosecutor didn't offer this evidence to the defense, the judge ruled that a fair trial still happened. The record wasn't requested by the defendant's counsel, nor were there any instances of perjury. Furthermore, it was ruled that the trial judge's ruling and appraisal were thorough enough and reasonable enough to not be in doubt.

It's undoubtedly an intriguing scenario. Perhaps in hindsight, it might seem like this prior criminal past would be enough to suggest some reasonable doubt. Yet, at the same time, when delving deep into the evidence, the defendant was not wounded during the incident.

And although a victim might be a career criminal, in the absence of any other proof indicating self-defense, it can't stand alone as evidence that could exonerate the accused.

Ultimately the court said the government’s conduct was excusable because it wouldn’t have made any difference to the defendant’s case.

Does Brady Hold Weight Outside of Criminal Cases?

In a criminal case, relying on the precedent set in the Brady case could prove quite fruitful. When you're represented by a reliable defense team, and you're innocent, they'll go to every length to confirm your innocence. The Brady requirements could go far on this front.

But what about your CACI hearing? Can your lawyer cite Brady to remove your name from the database? In other words, is the child welfare services agency legally required to give you evidence that they have that is favorable to you…and if they don’t give it to you, does that meant hey have to take you off the CACI?

Unfortunately, by their terms Brady and the other court cases only apply to criminal cases. CACI grievance proceedings are not criminal cases; they are administrative cases. Meaning the rules outlined in Brady don't necessarily apply to CACI grievance hearings.

That doesn't mean we’re completely out of luck.

While Brady itself doesn’t apply to CACI hearings, it’s fair to say that the principles that Brady stands for come from the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which does apply to CACI grievance hearings. Thus, an argument can potentially be made that the CPS agencies in CACI cases must comply with Brady's requirements.