Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Banks v. Dretke case brief

Banks v. Dretke case brief summary
540 U.S. 668 (2004)

Petitioner prison inmate was convicted in state court of felony murder and sentenced to death, but asserted that the prosecution failed to disclose that a key witness was a paid informant and knowingly allowed the witness to testify falsely. Upon the grant of a writ of certiorari, the inmate appealed the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit which reversed a grant of the inmate's habeas corpus petition.

It was conceded that the prosecution failed to disclose the informant's status and did not correct the informant's false testimony that he did not talk to police until shortly before trial. The lower appellate court found, however, that the issue of suppression of impeachment evidence concerning the informant was procedurally barred since the inmate failed to pursue the issue in state court proceedings, despite indications of the prosecutorial misconduct.

  • The United States Supreme Court held the inmate's claim was not barred since the inmate showed cause for failing to develop the claim in state court and the impeachment evidence was clearly material, at least with regard to the penalty proceedings. 
  • The inmate's failure to investigate the informant's status resulted from the prosecution's persistent misrepresentations and omissions concerning such status, and the inmate was entitled to credit the prosecution's statements. 
  • Further, the inmate was prejudiced from the lack of the evidence since the prosecution relied heavily on the informant's penalty phase testimony about the inmate's propensity to commit further crimes without disclosing the informant's active role in the case.


The judgment reversing the grant of the inmate's habeas corpus petition was reversed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Recommended Supplements for Criminal Procedure Criminal Procedure: Examples & Explanations, Sixth Edition
Emanuel Law Outline: Criminal Procedure

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