Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Brady Rule Definition:

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 punishment.

Related Terms: Due Process, Suppressed Evidence

See, also, the Legal Definition of Suppressed Evidence.

A rule of evidence developed in the United States of America and named after the 1963 Supreme Court of United States case in which it was stated, as follows, Brady v Maryland:

"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 punishment."

In Hughes v Phillips, 2006, Justice McMahon of the United States District Court (New York) wrote:

"Brady requires disclosure of the material exculpatory evidence early enough so that the defense can make use of the information. Suppression of exculpatory material violates due process irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution. However, if the defendant could have discovered the evidence on its own, exercising due diligence, then it will not be considered suppressed for Brady purposes.

"To find a Brady violation, a court need not conclude that the undisclosed evidence would have been admissible at trial. Rather, a court need only conclude any of the following: (1) all or part of the document was admissible; (2) it could have led to the discovery of admissible evidence, or (3) it would have been an effective tool in disciplining a witness during cross-examination, by refreshment of recollection or otherwise.

"The standard for granting a new trial for Brady violations is whether there is a reasonable probability that there would have been a different result at trial if the evidence had been timely disclosed."

In United States v Agurs, Mr. Justice Stevens of the Supreme Court of United States, expanded on the Brady rule:

"The rule of Brady v. Maryland arguably applies in three quite different situations. Each involves the discovery, after trial, of information which had been known to the prosecution but unknown to the defense. In the first situation, the undisclosed evidence demonstrates that the prosecution's case includes perjured testimony and that the prosecution knew, or should have known, of the perjury.

"In a series of subsequent cases, the Court has consistently held that a conviction obtained by the knowing use of perjured testimony is fundamentally unfair, and must be set aside if there is any reasonable likelihood that the false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury. It is this line of cases on which the Court of Appeals placed primary reliance. In those cases the Court has applied a strict standard of materiality, not just because they involve prosecutorial misconduct, but more importantly because they involve a corruption of the truth-seeking function of the trial process. Since this case involves no misconduct, and since there is no reason to question the veracity of any of the prosecution witnesses, the test of materiality followed in the Mooney line of cases is not necessarily applicable to this case.

"The second situation, illustrated by the Brady case itself, is characterized by a pretrial request for specific evidence. In that case defense counsel had requested the extrajudicial statements made by Brady's accomplice, one Boblit. This Court held that the suppression of one of Boblit's statements deprived Brady of due process, noting specifically that the statement had been requested and that it was material. A fair analysis of the holding in Brady indicates that implicit in the requirement of materiality is a concern that the suppressed evidence might have affected the outcome of the trial....

"In many cases, however, exculpatory information in the possession of the prosecutor may be unknown to defense counsel. In such a situation he may make no request at all, or possibly ask for "all Brady material" or for "anything exculpatory." Such a request really gives the prosecutor no better notice than if no request is made. If there is a duty to respond to a general request of that kind, it must derive from the obviously exculpatory character of certain evidence in the hands of the prosecutor. But if the evidence is so clearly supportive of a claim of innocence that it gives the prosecution notice of a duty to produce, that duty should equally arise even if no request is made. Whether we focus on the desirability of a precise definition of the prosecutor's duty or on the potential harm to the defendant, we conclude that there is no significant difference between cases in which there has been merely a general request for exculpatory matter and cases, like the one we must now decide, in which there has been no request at all. The third situation in which the Brady rule arguably applies ... therefore embraces the case in which only a general request for Brady material has been made."


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