April 19, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Grant of New Trial Reversed Because Undisclosed Evidence Immaterial Under Brady

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in United States v. Reese on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

Rick Reese owned a federally licensed firearms store and ran it with his wife, Terri, and two sons, Ryin and Remington. In August 2012, a jury convicted Rick, Terri, and Ryin under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 924(a)(1)(A) for aiding and abetting straw purchases of firearms from the store. Unbeknownst to them, however, at the time of trial the FBI was investigating one of the government’s witnesses, Deputy Batts, for his alleged involvement in various criminal activities. Arguing that the government’s failure to disclose that information before trial violated Brady v. Maryland, Defendants filed a motion for a new trial. The district court concluded that the government had withheld favorable, material evidence from Defendants and granted their motion. The government appealed.

Before reaching the merits of the appeal, the Tenth Circuit clarified that de novo is the standard of review of a district court’s ruling on a Brady claim asserted in the context of a new-trial motion. It also clarified that the test for materiality of withheld evidence does not change based on whether the government withheld it negligently or intentionally.

The court focused on the materiality element of the Brady claim and concluded that the Deputy Batts investigation was immaterial because there was not a reasonable probability that the outcome of Defendants’ trial would have been different had the government disclosed the investigation. The government’s evidence on the counts of conviction was sufficiently strong that the court was confident in the jury’s verdict. The court rejected Defendants’ arguments that Deputy Batts was a critical witness or that this was a close case and reversed the district court.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Speak Your Mind

*