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Name: Comstock v. Humphries
Case #: 14-15311
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 05/12/2015
Summary

Defendant was entitled to federal habeas relief where prosecutor did not disclose evidence that the victim was unsure whether property had actually been stolen. Comstock was convicted in 2004 of possessing stolen property, a ring, which he had pawned. At trial, he argued that the ring was not stolen, but was found outside the victim’s apartment. Comstock received a 10-25 year sentence under Nevada’s habitual offender statute. Street, the owner of the ring, wrote in a presentencing statement that he remembered taking the ring off outside his apartment and placing it on the ground, and did not recall putting it back on, meaning that the ring might have been lost outside, not stolen. He also stated that he had previously told the prosecution about this information. Neither the prosecutor nor the detective had disclosed Street’s statement to Comstock’s lawyer. The state trial court denied a new trial motion and the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed. The federal district court denied habeas relief and Comstock appealed. Held: Reversed and remanded. The evidence of Street’s recollection was favorable to the defense because it cast doubt on Street’s credibility in terms of how he handled his ring and whether a crime had been committed. The prosecution had a duty to disclose the information. There was a reasonable probability that the jury’s verdict would have been different had it heard of Street’s recollection. The court concluded that “[t]his is no routine case. The troubling and unique circumstances here compel us to grant Comstock the relief that he seeks, albeit ten years too late.”