Have you ever wondered how caselaw and perjured testimony can impact a Connecticut habeas corpus case? Find out here.
Prior to trial, the State must disclose exculpatory evidence material to guilt or punishment, including impeachment evidence, in its possession (or the possession of its agents), to defense counsel pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), General Statutes § 54-86c(a)(c), and Practice Book § 40-11(a)(1). See Strickler v. Greene, 527 U.S. 263 (1999) (impeachment evidence is favorable under Brady ); Also see Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419, 437 (1995)(“[T]he individual prosecutor has a duty to learn of any favorable evidence known to the others acting on the [State’s] behalf in the case, including the police.”).
Failure to Disclose Exculpatory Evidence
When the habeas claim states that the State failed to disclose exculpatory evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, the petitioner has a dual burden of proving the existence of the violation and, if so, that the undisclosed information constitutes material information. Brady , supra, 373 U.S. 83. Also, in demonstrating a Brady violation, a defendant is not limited to showing that the undisclosed information is exculpatory; rather a defendant need only demonstrate that the undisclosed information is helpful to the defense. See Lapointe v. Commissioner, 316 Conn. 225 (2015)(Brady violation found because detective’s undisclosed notes were exculpatory in that they supported alibi).
For example, under Brady, the State would get required to disclose information that a witness has a financial interest in testifying for the State, or that a witness anticipated a favorable plea bargain in return for acting as a prosecution witness. See Cone v. Bell, 556 U.S. 449 (2009); in addition, see Banks v. Dretke, 540 U.S. 668 (2004); see also Adams v. Commissioner, 309 Conn. 359 (2013)(false testimony by prosecution witness concerning consideration received constitutes material testimony); Then see Lewis v. Commissioner, 790 F.3d 109 (2nd Cir. 2015)(evidence that State’s key witness was coached by detective was exculpatory and impeaching). Also, improperly undisclosed information will constitute material if there is a “reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” (internal quotation marks omitted) United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 682 (1985).
In determining whether undisclosed evidence was “material” in violation of Brady, the cumulative effect of all suppressed evidence favorable to the defendant is considered, rather than each item individually. Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. at 440.
The State’s knowing proffer of perjured testimony is prohibited. It violates due process of law under both the state and federal constitutions. See Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972)(due process bars prosecution from knowingly using material false testimony to obtain conviction and any conviction so obtained constitutes invalid testimony); Also see Mooney v. Holohan, 294 U.S. 103 (1935)(prosecutor may not obtain conviction by presentation of perjured testimony). In addition, due process of law gets equally violated when the State does not elicit the perjured testimony, but learns of its character and fails to correct it. Also see State v. Paradise, 213 Conn. 388, 399-400 (1990), also, overruled in part on other grounds, State v. Skakel, 276 Conn. 633, 693 (2006), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1030 (2008).
So, whether the State’s unknowing proffer of perjured testimony constitutes a violation of due process of law has not yet gotten decided by the Connecticut Supreme Court. Gould v. Commissioner, 301 Conn. 544, 569-71 and n.18 (2011). The Second Circuit, however, has taken the position that a due process violation results.
See Ortega v. Duncan, 333 F.3d 102, 108 (2nd Cir. 2003)(“[W]hen false testimony is provided by a government witness without the prosecutor’s knowledge, due process is violated … if the testimony was material and the court is left with a firm belief that but for the perjured testimony, the defendant would most likely not have been convicted.”); Sanders v. Sullivan , 863 F.2d 218, 222-27 (2nd Cir. 1988) (perjured testimony can amount to a federal due process violation that warrants a new trial even if the state-court prosecutor did not know the testimony constituted perjury when presented), aff’d after remand, 900 F.2d 601, 602-07 (2nd Cir. 1990).