Brady v. Maryland

373 U.S. 83

Case Year: 1963

Case Ruling: 7-2, Affirmed

Opinion Justice: Douglas

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Concurring Opinions

Dissenting Opinions

Court Opinion Joiner(s):

White, Brennan, Clark, Goldberg, Stewart, Warren


1st Concurring Opinion

Author: White


1st Dissenting Opinion

Author: Harlan

Joiner(s): Black

2nd Concurring Opinion



2nd Dissenting Opinion



3rd Concurring Opinion



3rd Dissenting Opinion



Other Concurring Opinions:


In addition to specific Sixth Amendment guarantees, defendants also have the right to a fair trial, generally guaranteed by the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. This rather vague term--due process--has been used both to ensure that police obtain evidence by fair means and to apply constitutional guarantees to the states. The Court also has used it to guarantee that defendants receive fair treatment from prosecutors and courts.

One of the most important manifestations of due process in criminal proceedings is what is known in civil cases as discovery. This long-standing legal tradition allows both sides of a civil dispute to have access to each other's cases. Prior to 1963, mandated discovery was not a part of most criminal proceedings. Instead, each side prepared its case in relative isolation, knowing little of the evidence possessed by the other side. That year, however, the Supreme Court in Brady v. Maryland radically changed criminal procedure by creating the so-called Brady request.



Petitioner and a companion, Boblit, were found guilty of murder in the first degree and were sentenced to death, their convictions being affirmed by the Court of Appeals of Maryland. 220 Md. 454, 154 A. 2d 434. Their trials were separate, petitioner being tried first. At his trial Brady took the stand and admitted his participation in the crime, but he claimed that Boblit did the actual killing. And, in his summation to the jury, Brady's counsel conceded that Brady was guilty of murder in the first degree, asking only that the jury return that verdict "without capital punishment." Prior to the trial petitioner's counsel had requested the prosecution to allow him to examine Boblit's extrajudicial statements. Several of those statements were shown to him; but one dated July 9, 1958, in which Boblit admitted the actual homicide, was withheld by the prosecution and did not come to petitioner's notice until after he had been tried, convicted, and sentenced, and after his conviction had been affirmed.

Petitioner moved the trial court for a new trial based on the newly discovered evidence that had been suppressed by the prosecution.... [O]n appeal the Court of Appeals held that suppression of the evidence by the prosecution denied petitioner due process of law and remanded the case for a retrial of the question of punishment, not the question of guilt....

We agree with the Court of Appeals that suppression of this confession was a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment....

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....

... 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. An inscription on the walls of the Department of Justice states the proposition candidly for the federal domain: "The United States wins its point whenever justice is done its citizens in the courts." A prosecution that withholds evidence on demand of an accused which, if made available, would tend to exculpate him or reduce the penalty helps shape a trial that bears heavily on the defendant. That casts the prosecutor in the role of an architect of a proceeding that does not comport with standards of justice, even though, as in the present case, his action is not "the result of guile," to use the words of the Court of Appeals....