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Smith v. Cain


The defendant was convicted of several murders substantially based upon testimony from a witness who identified the defendant as the perpetrator. During the appeal process, the defendant obtained government records that included copies of the investigator’s notes. The notes indicated that on the night of the murders, the witness could not provide a physical description of the perpetrator beyond the person’s race, and that the witness did not see the perpetrator’s face. The notes had not been provided to the defendant prior to trial.


Whether the notes constituted Brady material, requiring their disclosure to the defendant?


Yes. The notes were material to the defense and should have been turned over to the defendant.


The Court stated, “[U]nder Brady, the State violates a defendant’s right to due process if it withholds evidence that is favorable to the defense and material to the defendant’s guilt or punishment.” Evidence is “material” under Brady when there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed, the result of the proceeding would have been different. This standard does not require a finding that the defendant would have been found not guilty, but only that confidence in the trial’s outcome was undermined.


565 U.S. 418, 132 S. Ct. 627 (2012)

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