Lee v. Kemna, 534 U.S. 362, 6 (2002)

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Cite as: 534 U. S. 362 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

103, 124 (1990) (quoting James v. Kentucky, 466 U. S. 341, 349 (1984) (in turn quoting Staub v. City of Baxley, 355 U. S. 313, 320 (1958))) (internal quotation marks omitted).


On August 27, 1992, Reginald Rhodes shot and killed Steven Shelby on a public street in Kansas City, Missouri. He then jumped into the passenger side of a waiting truck, which sped away. Rhodes pleaded guilty, and Remon Lee, the alleged getaway driver, was tried for first-degree murder and armed criminal action.

Lee's trial took place within the span of three days in February 1994. His planned alibi defense—that he was in California with his family at the time of the murder—surfaced at each stage of the proceedings. During voir dire on the first day of trial, Lee's court-appointed defense attorney informed prospective jurors that "[t]here will be a defense in this case, which is a defense of alibi." App. 10; see also ibid. ("And we'll put on evidence—I can't go into it now—that he was somewhere else, he couldn't commit the crime and I believe the judge will give an instruction on alibi at the conclusion of my case."). Later in the voir dire, defense counsel identified the three alibi witnesses as Lee's mother, Gladys Edwards, Lee's sister, Laura Lee, and Lee's stepfather, James Edwards, a minister. Id., at 11-13.

The planned alibi defense figured prominently in counsels' opening statements on day two of Lee's trial. The prosecutor, at the close of her statement, said she expected an alibi defense from Lee and would present testimony to disprove it. Tr. 187. Defense counsel, in his opening statement, described the alibi defense in detail, telling the jury that the evidence would show Lee was not in Kansas City, and therefore could not have engaged in crime there, in August 1992. App. 12-13. Specifically, defense counsel said three close family members would testify that Lee came to visit them in


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