EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Friday, November 9, 2018

My New Article: "The Right to Evidence of Innocence Before Pleading Guilty"

I have posted the draft of my new article, "The Right to Evidence of Innocence Before Pleading Guilty," on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

George Alvarez, a ninth grade, special education student, pleaded guilty to assault of a peace officer in Texas. Four years into his sentence, Alvarez learned that the State had suppressed a video of the incident that proved his actual innocence. Alvarez claimed that the city violated the Brady doctrine by failing to disclose material exculpatory evidence. In rejecting his claim, the Fifth Circuit concluded that “case law from the Supreme Court, this circuit, and other circuits does not affirmatively establish that a constitutional violation occurs when Brady material is not shared during the plea bargaining process.” Given that 95% of convictions are secured through guilty pleas, such an interpretation of Brady means that few defendants are entitled to evidence of their innocence before being convicted.

This article argues, however, that these courts are ignoring a forgotten Supreme Court opinion that was central to the creation of the Brady doctrine. In its opinion in Wilde v. Wyoming, the Court recognized that the suppression of favorable substantive evidence before a defendant’s guilty plea can violate the Due Process Clause. Later, the Court stated that its Brady opinion was merely an extension of its prior opinions such as Wilde. And yet, while each of the other opinions that formed the foundation for the Brady doctrine has had a lasting legacy, the Wilde opinion has been lost to time despite never being repudiated. This article calls for a resurrection of Wilde and the recognition of a right to evidence of innocence before pleading guilty.

Any feedback would be much appreciated.

-CM

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2018/11/i-have-posted-the-draft-of-my-new-article-the-right-to-evidence-of-innocence-before-pleading-guiltyon-ssrn-here-is-the-abs.html

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Comments

OK, I keep screwing up posting my comments and this is the 3rd time I"m typing them out. So, I think I'm going to make a few separate comments!
1) Comma after "Brady" in "Given that 95% of convictions are secured through guilty pleas, such an interpretation of Brady"

Posted by: Jennifer Hill | Nov 9, 2018 3:57:19 PM

2) Change "a forgotten Supreme Court opinion that was central to the creation of the Brady doctrine. In its opinion in Wilde v. Wyoming" TO "a forgotten Supreme Court opinion, Wilde v. Wyoming, which was central to the creation of the Brady doctrine. In this opinion,"

Posted by: Jennifer Hill | Nov 9, 2018 3:58:44 PM

3) As a non-lawyer, I don't understand the significance of the Court stating "that its Brady opinion was merely an extension of its prior opinions such as Wilde." I don't understand how the Court calling Wilde "merely an extension" led to it becoming a forgotten part of Brady and obviously has harmed many innocent people by its being ignored. But if lawyers understand that significance then my not understanding it doesn't matter.

Posted by: Jennifer Hill | Nov 9, 2018 4:01:17 PM

4) I'm wondering if Wilde should be brought up when you bring up "Alvarez claimed that the city violated the Brady doctrine by failing to disclose material exculpatory evidence." It seems to me a lot of innocent people have been harmed by the forgotten Wilde piece and for me, not mentioning it until later in the abstract doesn't emphasize that enough. But I think I have a more crusading-for-justice/political take on it.

Posted by: Jennifer Hill | Nov 9, 2018 4:04:51 PM

Re jennifer’s Second comment: I forget what the specific rule is as to when to use “that” vs “which”, but I feel like “that” sounds more correct — I could be wrong though. I used to know some pneumonic about which witches are not necessary, while that witches are.,. or something like that.

Posted by: Paul | Nov 11, 2018 7:42:56 PM

"which" is used in non-restrictive clauses; "that" is used in restrictive clauses.

Posted by: James Puritz | Nov 26, 2018 11:44:48 AM

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