Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419 (1995)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fifth circuit

No. 93-7927. Argued November 7, 1994—Decided April 19, 1995

Petitioner Kyles was convicted of first-degree murder by a Louisiana jury and sentenced to death. Following the affirmance of his conviction and sentence on direct appeal, it was revealed on state collateral review that the State had never disclosed certain evidence favorable to him. That evidence included, inter alia, (1) contemporaneous eyewitness statements taken by the police following the murder; (2) various statements made to the police by an informant known as "Beanie," who was never called to testify; and (3) a computer printout of license numbers of cars parked at the crime scene on the night of the murder, which did not list the number of Kyles's car. The state trial court nevertheless denied relief, and the State Supreme Court denied Kyles's application for discretionary review. He then sought relief on federal habeas, claiming, among other things, that his conviction was obtained in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U. S. 83, 87, which held that the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment. The Federal District Court denied relief, and the Fifth Circuit affirmed.

Held: 1. Under United States v. Bagley, 473 U. S. 667, four aspects of materiality for Brady purposes bear emphasis. First, favorable evidence is material, and constitutional error results from its suppression by the government, if there is a "reasonable probability" that, had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of the proceeding would have been different. Thus, a showing of materiality does not require demonstration by a preponderance that disclosure of the suppressed evidence would have resulted ultimately in the defendant's acquittal. 473 U. S., at 682, 685. United States v. Agurs, 427 U. S. 97, 112-113, distinguished. Second, Bagley materiality is not a sufficiency of evidence test. One does not show a Brady violation by demonstrating that some of the inculpatory evidence should have been excluded, but by showing that the favorable evidence could reasonably be taken to put the whole case in such a different light as to undermine confidence in the verdict. Third, contrary to the Fifth Circuit's assumption, once a reviewing court applying Bagley has found constitutional error, there is no need for further harmless-error review, since the constitutional standard for materi-


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