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Name: U.S. v. Kohring
Case #: 08-30170
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 03/11/2011
Summary

The prosecution violates a defendant’s due process rights by withholding material exculpatory/impeaching evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland (1963) 373 U.S. 83, and Giglio v. U.S (1972) 405 U.S. 150. Kohring, a former Alaska State House legislator, was convicted of public corruption charges. While the case was on appeal, the prosecution disclosed new exculpatory evidence and the matter was remanded to the district court for a Brady/Giglio hearing. In Brady, the Supreme Court held the prosecution violates a defendant’s due process rights where it withholds material evidence which is favorable to the accused. It extended this principle to include impeachment evidence in Giglio. After a hearing, the district court found the government had withheld favorable evidence but had not violated Brady/Giglio because the newly-disclosed evidence was not material. On appeal the Ninth Circuit disagreed and reversed. It cited the three elements of a Brady/Giglio violation: (1) the evidence withheld must be favorable to the accused either because it is exculpatory or impeaching; (2) the evidence was withheld willfully or inadvertently; and (3) prejudice. Here, the prosecution withheld thousands of pages of documents. After a detailed evaluation of the nature of the evidence withheld, the court found the cumulative effect of the nondisclosure undermined confidence in the outcome of the trial. A substantial amount of the material was either admissible on its face or could have been used for impeachment. Evidence regarding possible bias and criminal acts committed by the prosecution’s star witness would have probably had substantial impact on the jury’s assessment of his credibility. Because the court did not find the prosecution acted “flagrantly, willfully and in bad faith” it declined to dismiss the superseding indictment, instead remanding the matter for new trial. The dissent would have dismissed the indictment in light of flagrant prosecutorial misconduct.