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Name: Maxwell v. Roe
Case #: 06-56093
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 11/30/2010
Summary

A conviction obtained by knowingly perjured testimony is fundamentally unfair and a constitutional error resulting from the use of such false evidence by the government requires a new trial if the testimony reasonably could have affected the judgment of the jury. In 1979, Maxwell was charged with the “Skid Row Stabber” killings and convicted of two of the ten counts of first degree murder. In subsequent appeals, he contended that he was convicted on the basis of the perjured testimony of a jailhouse informant, that the testimony was material, and that the prosecution withheld material evidence regarding deals the informant received. The Ninth Circuit agreed and reversed. There was very little evidence implicating Maxwell in the killings. However, prior to trial, the informant, Storch, approached the prosecution and informed them that while he and Maxwell had been housed together in jail, Maxwell had essentially confessed to the killings of the skid row victims. Storch testified at the trial and Maxwell was convicted of two of the killings. Based on the review of evidence subsequently produced at evidentiary hearings, the appellate court agreed with Maxwell that the state court’s finding that Storch did not give false testimony was unreasonable under the facts, and that it was probable that this testimony affected the verdict. Further, the prosecution committed error under Brady v. Maryland (1963) 373 U.S. 83, by failing to disclose the deal made with Storch and Storch’s prior informant history. (Storch eventually became infamous for providing his version of informant evidence in high-profile cases, testimony that often was determined to be untrue and unreliable. Eventually, the Los Angeles County District Attorney categorized him as unusable and he was later indicted for perjury.) Because the State relied on the false and material evidence to convict Maxwell, he is entitled to habeas relief. The matter was remanded with direction to grant Maxwell a new trial or release him.