RESPONDENT: Burl Cain, Warden
LOCATION: Twenty-First Judicial District Court, Parish of Livingston
DOCKET NO.: 14-10008
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2016- )
LOWER COURT: State trial court
CITATION: 577 US (2016)
GRANTED: Mar 07, 2016
DECIDED: Mar 07, 2016
Facts of the case
Eric Walber was murdered on April 4, 1998. Nearly two years after the murder, Sam Scott, who was incarcerated at the time, contacted authorities and implicated Michael Wearry in the murder. Scott had been friends with the victim and claimed that Wearry had confessed the crime to him. However, Scott gave an account of the murder that differed from the actual facts and changed his story several times before Wearry’s trial. The prosecution’s other main witness was also incarcerated at the time of trial and had made a prior inconsistent statement to the police that he also recanted. Wearry was convicted and sentenced to death.
After Wearry’s conviction, information emerged that revealed that the prosecution had failed to disclose evidence that cast doubt on these witnesses’ testimony and would have materially aided Wearry’s defense at trial. Wearry sought state postconviction relief and argued that the state had violated his due process rights under Brady v. Maryland by failing to disclose the potentially exculpatory evidence and that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel. The state court determined that, even if the state should have disclosed the evidence and Wearry’s counsel was ineffective, he was not prejudiced, and the Louisiana Supreme Court denied further relief.
To prevail on a claim that suppression of evidence violated his due process rights under Brady v. Maryland, does a defendant need to show that, more likely than not, he would have been acquitted if the suppressed evidence in question had been made available to him?