Banks v. Dretke Case Brief

Facts of the Case

Defendant Banks 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. On Defendant’s petition, the district court granted Banks habeas corpus. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the grant of his habeas corpus petition, and Defendant sought certiorari review.


May the Congress withdraw jurisdiction from the High Court after that jurisdiction has been given?


Yes and yes. In an opinion delivered by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court held 7-2 that the Fifth Circuit was wrong to dismiss Banks’ claim under Brady relating to Farr’s testimony and 9-0 that the Fifth Circuit was wrong to deny Banks’ appeal based on Cook’s testimony. Banks could make his Brady claim relating to Farr’s testimony in federal court without have made the claim in state court because he demonstrated both cause for failing to present evidence in state court and evidence that that failure prejudiced the proceedings against him. The Court held that both the district court and the Fifth Circuit wrongly denied Banks’ appeal with regard to his Brady claim on Cook’s testimony. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(b) does apply in this case and requires courts to treat Banks’ claim relating to Cook’s testimony as if it were raised in earlier proceedings.

Case Information

Citation: 540 US 668 (2004)
Granted: Apr 21, 2003
Argued: Dec 8, 2003
Decided: Feb 24, 2004
Case Brief: 2004