Facts of the Case
The Commonwealth of Virginia charged defendant Tommy David Strickler with capital murder and related crimes. Because an open file policy gave Strickler access to all of the evidence in the prosecutor’s files, Strickler’s counsel did not file a pretrial motion for discovery of possible exculpatory evidence. At the trial, Anne Stoltzfus gave detailed eyewitness testimony about the crimes and Strickler’s role as one of the perpetrators. The prosecutor failed to disclose exculpatory materials in the police files, consisting of notes taken by a detective during interviews with Stoltzfus, and letters written by Stoltzfus to the detective, that cast serious doubt on significant portions of her testimony. The jury found defendant guilty, and he was sentenced to death, the sentence of which was affirmed by the Virginia Supreme Court. In subsequent state habeas corpus proceedings, Strickler advanced an ineffective assistance of counsel claim based, in part, on trial counsel’s failure to file a motion under
Did Virginia violate Brady v. Maryland, which provides for the disclosure of all possible exculpatory evidence, when a prosecutor failed to disclose all the exculpatory materials in the police’s files? Was there an acceptable reason for Tommy Strickler’s failure to raise a Brady claim in state court after such an event? Would the outcome of Strickler’s trial been different in presence of the exculpatory evidence?
No, yes, and no. In an opinion delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court held that although Strickler demonstrated cause for his failure to raise a Brady claim, Virginia did not violate Brady by failing to disclose exculpatory evidence to him. Further, the Court held that Strickler received a fair trial in the absence of the exculpatory evidence and did not show a reasonable probability that his conviction or sentence would have been different had these materials been disclosed, wrote Justice Stevens for the Court.
- Citation: 527 US 263 (1999)
- Argued: Mar 3, 1999
- Decided Jun 17, 1999