United States v. Bass

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: John Bass
LOCATION: United States District Court Eastern District of Michigan

DOCKET NO.: 01-1471
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 536 US 862 (2002)
DECIDED: Jun 28, 2002
GRANTED: Jun 28, 2002

Facts of the case

In 1998, John Bass, a black man, was charged with two counts of homicide with a firearm in federal court, and the government filed notice of the intent to pursue the death penalty. Bass moved to dismiss the death penalty notice, and he filed a discovery request for information regarding the government’s death penalty charging practices and statistics by arguing that the government’s capital charging practices were racially motivated. The district court granted Bass’ motion for discovery and, after the government informed the court that it would not comply with the order, dismissed the death penalty notice. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to grant Bass’ motion.

Question

Must a defendant seeking discovery against the United States government on a claim of selective prosecution show evidence that similarly-situated defendants of a different race were not prosecuted?