Maybe, Consider This Evidence
The jury system in the United States is not a great system for determining the guilt or non-guilt of a person charged with a crime, but it is the best system anyone has come up with so far, and it is the system that is in place. The jury system means that an impartial jury is presented the evidence by both sides, it weighs that evidence and returns a verdict. The judge presides at the trial, but makes decisions only with respect to the applicable law, not with respect to the decision of guilt or not guilty.
A critical feature of this system is that the defense has access to all of the information that the prosecution has, including information that may help the defense. The reason for this is that a trial is not a sporting contest, it is a procedure designed to produce justice. So as a matter of fairness, as a matter of justice and even as a matter of law the prosecution must turn over to the defense any and all information it has that may help the defendant prove his or her case.
The Supreme Court has just decided a case where there was no question as to the fact that the prosecution withheld evidence that would have cast doubt on the guilt of the defendant.
Petitioner Juan Smith was convicted of first-degree murder based on the testimony of a single eyewitness. During state postconviction relief proceedings, Smith obtained police files containing statements by the eyewitness contradicting his testimony. Smith argued that the prosecution’s failure to disclose those statements violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U. S. 83. Brady held that due process bars a State from withholding evidence that is favorable to the defense and material to the defendant’s guilt or punishment. See id., at 87. The state trial court rejected Smith’s Brady claim, and the
Louisiana Court of Appeal and Supreme Court denied review Louisiana
The vote was 8 to 1, with Conservative Justices Robert, Scalia and Alito all recognizing that the defendant's rights had been violated.
Held: Brady requires that Smith’s conviction be reversed. The State does not dispute that the eyewitness’s statements were favorable to Smith and that those statements were not disclosed to Smith. Under Brady, evidence is material if there is a “reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” . . . Here, however, the eyewitness’s testimony was the only evidence linking Smith to the crime, and the eyewitness’s undisclosed statements contradicted his testimony. The eyewitness’s statements were plainly material, and the State’s failure to disclose those statements to the defense thus violated Brady. Pp. 2–4.
Now that seems pretty clear, but for Justice Thomas this was a gross miscarriage of justice. Justice Thomas dissented, and in his dissent he goes through the trial and concludes that the undisclosed evidence would not have made a difference.
The errors in Mr. Thomas’s position are incredible. Without ever being present at the trial he goes through a detailed analysis of the case and asserts that he alone is capable to determining how the jury would have reasoned had the withheld information been presented, and how the prosecution would have argued and rebutted the evidence against its case. He asserts, without any personal knowledge of the proceedings that the evidence would not have helped the defendant.
Here, much of the record evidence confirms that, from the night of the murders through trial, Boatner consistently described—with one understandable exception—the first perpetrator through the door, that Boatner’s description matched Smith, and that Boatner made strong out-of-court and in-court identifications implicating Smith. Some of the undisclosed evidence cited by Smith is not favorable to him at all, either because it is of no impeachment or exculpa- tory value or because it actually inculpates him. Because what remains is evidence of such minimal impeachment and exculpatory value as to be immaterial in light of the whole record, I must dissent from the Court’s holding that the State violated Brady.
Justice Thomas has decided that he will assume the role of judges from medieval times, that he alone as judge will decide the guilt or innocence of a party. In fact, any examination of Justice Thomas’s record would lead to the conclusion that he has far more in common with an Inquisitioner than a modern Supreme Court judge.
So what is really going on here. An examination of Justice Thomas’s ruling in the 20+ years he has been on the court show that he really has no belief in the system of justice. If a person is arrested, the person is guilty. If the police or the prosecution commit errors, no problem the person is still guilty. It is not clear why Justice Thomas feels this way, but when the history of this era is written by objective historians, the tragedy of Justice Thomas with respect to his destructive attitude towards the law will be thoroughly documented. The question that will not be answered is how this person ever got to be on the Court.