Brady v. Maryland, Giglio v. United States, United States v. Agurs

Case Summaries

Issues emanating from full disclosure of evidence perceived as favorable to a defendant have long proved matters of contention in the American criminal justice system.  This relative significance was one of the primary reasons which prompted the United States Supreme Court to underscore this fact in a series of decisions arrived at from mid-1963. The following are detailed summaries of the main issues in key United States Court cases pivoting on this exclusive legal provision.

Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) – Case Main Issues

            The main issue in the Brady v. Maryland case was whether the Maryland Court of Appeals was justified in its suppression of a secret confession made by one of the defendants regarding his role in a first-degree murder case. John Brady and Donald Boblit had initially been implicated in the murder of William Brooks, their long-time associate, in 1958 and later indicted on first-degree murder charges Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). (2017, June 4). They were subsequently found guilty of the said offence and sentenced to death by a Maryland jury. However, it soon became apparent that Boblit had earlier confessed to killing Brooks after a split second decision which he later claimed to have regretted. This crucial fact remained hidden to his co-defendant since both men were tried separately during court proceedings for the same crime. The case was later forwarded to the Maryland Court of Appeals where it was successively upheld, with the only matter up for debate being the severity of the punitive measures handed down. An appeal lodged by the defendant’s legal team was then presented to the Supreme Court where it was later determined that the actual suppression of Boblit’s confession was tantamount to a clear violation of due process. The presiding judge, William O. Douglas, reaffirmed the importance of holding fair criminal trials; directing the Maryland Court of Appeals to set up a retrial which resulted in a life imprisonment verdict for John Brady.

Read also Case Brief – Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361 (1989)

Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972) – Case Main Issues

The focal point and issue in the Giglio v. United States case was whether the prosecution’s action of withholding crucial information regarding the promise of immunity amounted to a miscarriage of justice warranting a re-trial. In mid-1966, John Giglio was connected to a fraud scheme at the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co. where he liaised with Robert Taliento to cash fake money orders. Taliento took a plea-bargain deal with the then Assistant U.S Attorney, shielding him from prosecution on condition that he testified against his co-defendant. The case was later picked up by a different Assistant U.S Attorney who was oblivious to the previous plea deal, resulting in utter confusion regarding any agreement struck between the two main parties involved. The evidence presented to the court bolstered by Taliento’s confession satisfied the jury, culminating in a 5-year sentence for Giglio (“Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972),” 2015). However, the defense team soon discovered transcripts of Taliento’s covert discussions with the government and subsequently lodged an appeal for a new trial. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the defendant, asserting that withholding such information was in direct violation of the due process clause outlined in the U.S constitution (Pollock, 2018).

Read also New Policy on the Death Penalty for Minors – Roper v. Simmons

United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97 (1976) – Case Main Issues      

The main issue of interest in the United States v. Agurs case was whether the prosecution was legally obligated to provide the defense team with a criminal record of the alleged victim. The defendant, Agurs, had been charged with second-degree murder by a circuit court in the District of Columbia (“United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97 (1976),” 2017). The defense soon stumbled upon the victim’s criminal records, initially withheld by the prosecution for fear of influencing the jury’s decision.  This information was crucial to the defense team since Agurs could now back the claim that he acted solely in self-defense and not the aggressor. Although the new evidence seemed admissible in court, it was thrown out by the District Court for not being sufficiently material. An appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Colombia later overturned the ruling, claiming that due process was not followed since the defendant a right to a fair federal criminal trial. The Bible is also categorical regarding justice and fairness. Leviticus 19:15 warns against the perversion of justice and calls for parity in judicial matters as an edict from God to authority figure (New International Version, 2011).

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