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Name: Benn v. Lambert
Case #: 00-99014
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 02/26/2002
Subsequent History: Cert. den. 10/7/02

At appellant’s trial for capital murder, the state’s main witness was a jailhouse informant who testified that appellant had confessed to him that he had intentionally shot the victims, who had threatened to reveal that he had set fire to his own trailer for the insurance proceeds. The state failed to disclose that the witness was a habitual drug user with a history of lying, and failed to turn over official reports which concluded that the fire had been accidental. Appellant was convicted and sentenced to death. The district court granted his habeas petition, and the prosecutor appealed. Here, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the the granting of the petition. Because the state deliberately withheld evidence, the defense was deprived of the opportunity to impeach the main witness against him, as well as evidence which would have undermined the state’s theory of why the victims were killed. Concurring opinion by J. Trott notes that the case provides us with a textbook example of the abuse of executive power contemplated by the Framers of the Constitution.