Tuesday, September 6, 2011
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the James A Brown case (U.S. v. Brown), in which a "managing director at Merrill Lynch and the head of its Strategic Asset and Lease Finance group" had been indicted in the Nigerian Barge case coming from the Enron events. The indictment was for "short-cut" offenses of perjury and obstruction of justice and the convictions had previously been affirmed by a three judge panel. Brown was now challenging his conviction on the basis that "the government violated his rights to due process by withholding materially favorable evidence that it possessed pre-trial."Specifically that it failed to disclose three pieces of evidence which included "1) The FBI notes of its interview with Fastow, 2) Senate investigators' notes of their interview with McMahon, and 3) transcripts of Zrike's pretrial testimony before the grand jury and the SEC." Although some of this evidence was shown to the court in camera before Brown's trial, the government admitted "that it did not submit the Fastow notes to the district court for in camera review." The Court takes the position that the government "did not suppress favorable evidence and that, even if it did, it was not material."
As noted by the defense in its en banc petition request and rehearing request, the court uses a standard other than de novo in reviewing part of this Brady violation claim. This presents an interesting question for an en banc or later Supreme Court to examine.
Brown En Banc Petition -Download 10-20621 Brown En Banc Petition FILED COPY
Brown Rehearing Petition -Download 10-20621 Brown Panel Rehearing FILED COPY
These events are also a perfect reason why there needs to be a statutory change in the discovery rules. NACDL has a proposal that would assist in making certain that favorable evidence is provided to the defense (see here) and hopefully Congress will take up this issue. Examining these issues after the fact only creates added issues.