EvidenceProf Blog

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

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Supreme Court of Georgia Finds Brady Violation in Malice Murder Trial

Pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, the State has an affirmative obligation, under the Due Process Clause, to timely disclose material exculpatory evidence to the defense. Brady covers not only substantive evidence but also impeachment evidence, with the recent opinion of the Supreme Court of Georgia in State v. Taylor, 2021 WL 1724970 (Ga. 2021), being a good example of the latter.

In Brady, "Tyler Thomas was convicted of malice murder and a firearm crime in connection with the fatal shooting of Ashley Brown during a planned drug deal." At trial, Jaleesa Glenn

testified that she and Thomas were “old friends” and that she let Thomas borrow her Altima on the day of the murder. He took the car late in the evening and returned it the next morning. When he returned it, the car had been damaged on the back right side. Thomas told her that a motorcycle had hit him and that she should file a report falsely telling the police and her insurance company that she had been involved in a hit and run. She did that, and her insurance company paid for the car repair.

At trial, the prosecution largely proven its case through the testimony of Ricardo Thomas, the alleged accomplice of Tyler Thomas. At trial, Ricardo testified, inter alia, about Tyler driving an Altimata on the night of the murder.

After he was convicted, Tyler filed a motion for a new trial, claiming a Brady violation based on the State's failure to disclose a deal between the State and Glenn.

At the hearing on the motion, Glenn testified as follows. At the time of Thomas's trial, she had a pending shoplifting charge from Carroll County, which would be a felony because of her prior shoplifting convictions. The prosecutor who tried Thomas's case, Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Adam Abbate, came to her house with an investigator about two weeks before the trial to ask about her Altima. Glenn told Abbate that she did not remember if Thomas had the Altima on the night of the murder. Abbate told her that if she did not cooperate, she and her mother would be subpoenaed. After that interview, Glenn talked to the attorney representing her on the shoplifting charge and decided to meet with the prosecutor again. She talked to Abbate at the courthouse during Thomas's trial. During that discussion, Abbate noted that he was aware of Glenn's pending felony charge and said, “I'm sure that you don't want to go to jail.” He then told Glenn that if she answered the State's questions “as they want[ed] [her] to answer them, then [her] case will go away.” On cross-examination at the hearing, Glenn testified that her trial testimony was “not true,” but she did not provide more details.

The Supreme Court of Georgia found that there was a Brady violation, concluding that
the trial court...recognized that “Glenn's testimony could be viewed as the most significant piece of corroborating evidence offered by the State in a case where the corroborating evidence was both slight and wholly circumstantial.” The court explained that Glenn was someone close to Thomas who testified against him, and her testimony was consistent with Ricardo's testimony about the Altima, “reflected [Thomas] as being dishonest with Glenn about what happened on the night of the shooting, and suggested [that Thomas] was attempting to cover up his association with the vehicle on the night of the shooting.” We agree that Glenn's testimony likely played a significant role in the jury's guilty verdicts against Thomas.
 
-CM

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2021/05/pursuant-to-brady-v-maryland-the-state-has-an-affirmative-obligation-under-the-due-process-clause-to-timely-disclose-mate.html

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