Turner v. U.S.

Posted: February 3, 2017 by beguide in case summaries, Criminal Procedure, White Skull

a_002WHAT HAPPENED:  Defendant was convicted of robbery, kidnapping and murder in 1984.  Defendant is appealing his conviction on grounds that the prosecutors failed to disclose material impeachment and exculpatory evidence during the original trial.  The evidence included eye-witness testimony and witness recantations that were more relevant to the case as time passed.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  In Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court held that the prosecutor must disclose material information that could lead to an acquittal to the defendant prior to trial.  This responsibility is founded in the Due Process Clause of the Constitution and is rooted in fairness, since the State often receives more information than the Defendant and has a duty to society to share information that may indicate that the charges are unfounded.  In order to satisfy that burden, the defendant must show that the evidence was material, in that it the evidence would have changed the outcome had it been shared.  The nuance in this case is that evidence Defendant argues should have been shared (i.e. witness recantations, eye witness testimony, impeachment evidence) only became material after the trial was concluded.  In other words, the evidence would not have met the standard when the trial was held, but twenty years later, the evidence looks like it may have changed things.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – Brady material is strikes a weird balance because on one hand you can certainly argue that the State should just give over the whole file and not be bothered with these kinds of motions twenty years later.  On the other hand, Judges don’t like to re-visit murder convictions unless there is a compelling reason to do so, and evidence that could have influenced things would more likely than not open up too many cases that should remain closed.  In this case, the evidence reads a lot like the SERIAL podcast, where the evidence is arguable at best and your view of how it would affect the trial depends on your biases in the criminal justice system.  While this certainly could exonerate an innocent person, creating a higher burden on the State to second guess the release of Brady material based on things that happen in the future is an impossible standard to meet in the present scope of a murder trial.

ROOT FOR TURNER IF:  you think Adnan is innocent and are still following his appeal.

ROOT FOR U.S. IF:  you think that the SERIAL podcast jumped the shark somewhere around episode 5, and you’ve moved on to bigger and better podcasts.

PREDICTION:  U.S. wins 7-1

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Comments
  1. Sarah K says:

    Adnan is super guilty

    Liked by 1 person

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