Tuesday, February 23, 2016
6th Circuit Case w/Brady Violation Based on Nondisclosure of Cover Sheet About Unreliability of Evidence
In the recent reopened PCR proceedings, Adnan made the claim that the State violated the Brady doctrine by failing to disclose that an AT&T disclaimer about incoming calls being unreliable for determining location applied to Exhibit 31 (which did not include the disclaimer or the page indicating that the exhibit was a Subscriber Activity report). So, is there an analogous case finding a Brady violation under similar circumstances? Absolutely.
In Sykes v. Anderson, 625 F.3d 294 (6th Cir. 2010),
Sykes, Urquhart, and a third individual, Kimberly Holmes, arrived at their place of employment, a Sprint PCS store, in Detroit, Michigan shortly before 8:00 a.m. in order to open the store for business. As Urquhart disabled the alarm and the three women entered the store, two men approached and forced their way into the store's foyer despite Sykes's and Urquhart's attempt to close and lock the door behind them. Once inside, one of the men told the women to “shut the F up before somebody get[s] shot” and revealed a gun that he had been concealing under his shirt....The two men then marched the women at gun point through the employee door to the back of the store where they were ordered to lie on the floor....Urquhart, who was three months pregnant at the time, was the only one who had the combination to open the safe. She was led at gunpoint to the room where the safe was located and was ordered to enter the room and remove the money contained inside the safe. In compliance with the armed robber's demand, Urquhart crossed the small room to the safe, “pulled out a money bag and  slid it across [the floor] to the man at the door.”... The two robbers fled with approximately $27,000....
During the ensuing police investigation, Sgt. Nichols began to suspect that the robbery was an inside job and that the three women had staged the crime. In addition to finding suspicious both Urquhart's agitation at being interviewed and Sykes's witness statement, Sgt. Nichols also had uncovered that Holmes was a frequent gambler at a local casino, which possibly supplied a motive. On March 11, 2002, Sgt. Nichols prepared a subpoena to serve on MotorCity Casino (“Casino”). Ten days later, on March 21, 2002, the Casino faxed to Sgt. Nichols's attention at the police station Holmes's gaming records for the three days immediately following the robbery: March 8, March 9, and March 10. Those records indicated that Holmes's “player's card” was used to gamble $23,116 at the Casino over those three days. Importantly, however, the Casino cautioned in a disclaimer letter included with the gaming records that the amount of money wagered with a player's card was not reliable as to (1) the amount of money wagered or (2) the identity of the gambler. The Casino further disclosed that the records were estimates developed for marketing purposes and “would not establish in any reliable manner the dates of attendance, gambling activities, or winnings or losses of a player.” (emphasis added).
Sgt. Nichols, however, "never received the Casino records because she had been replaced as the officer in charge by Defendant Sergeant Derrick Anderson. It was thus Sgt. Anderson who retrieved the fax." But Sgt. Anderson "never revealed—to either the prosecution or the defense—that the gaming records had been accompanied by a disclaimer letter, and in direct conflict with that letter, Sgt. Anderson testified that the records established conclusively that Holmes had gambled approximately the same amount of money taken in the robbery in the three days following the robbery."
After she was convicted, Sykes appealed, claiming that the State violated Brady, based on failing to disclose the disclaimer/cover sheet. The Sixth Circuit agreed, finding that the disclaimer/cover sheet was Brady material. The court also found that the misleading way that the State created its trial exhibit of the gaming records made it impossible for the defense to realize the issue and challenge the use of the records at trial:
[A]s compared to the original nine-page document that the Casino had sent in response to the subpoena, the one page from the Casino that the prosecution introduced as evidence had been magnified and cropped in a manner that removed the fax time stamps and page numbers, erasing any evidence that it was only one page of a much lengthier document. In other words, there was nothing to put Urquhart or Sykes on notice that the information that Sgt. Anderson was presenting from the Casino on this one page was incomplete.
Remember when FBI Special Agent testified that the cell tower evidence was manipulated because certain key information was cropped, prompting Justin Brown to note that this was the same evidence turned over to the defense back in 1999? That's exactly the type of information that led the Sixth Circuit to find a Brady violation in Sykes.