US Supreme Court declines to hear appeal from death row inmate involving prosecutorial discretion News
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US Supreme Court declines to hear appeal from death row inmate involving prosecutorial discretion

The US Supreme Court Monday declined to hear David Brown v. Louisiana, a case which concerns evidence rules in criminal trials. The man who petitioned the court to hear the case remains on death row, where he has been since his 2011 criminal conviction.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote the dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The case centers on how far the precedent decided in Brady v. Maryland stretches. Known as “Brady material,” the Brady court required prosecutors to disclose information favoring a criminal defendant to the defendant. This doctrine stems from the interests of justice, where the legal system seeks to avoid wrongfully convicting an innocent person.

Brown, who was sentenced to death in 2011 after his conviction of first degree murder for the 1999 death of a prison guard during a prison escape, never confessed to killing Captain David Knapps. While Brown admitted to involvement in the first phase of the assault on Knapps, he stressed during the trial he was not at the scene for the murder of Knapps. The prosecutor obtained information that Barry Edge, who is currently serving a life sentence after his own conviction of first degree murder, confessed that he and another man, Jeffrey Clark, were involved in the murder. This confession came before Brown went to trial, and the prosecutor withheld this information from Brown and his counsel. As a result, Brown was still convicted.

The dissenting justices argued that if the prosecutor disclosed Edge’s confession to Brown following the Brady doctrine, “There is a reasonable probability that at least one juror might have viewed Brown’s culpability in a different light.” Essentially, Brown may have not be on death row if the material had been allowed in during trial.

This decision comes a month after the Supreme Court allowed the execution of Donald Dillbeck, rejecting his argument that his death sentence violated the Eighth Amendment because it was not cruel and unusual punishment.