States v. Agurs – Case Brief Summary (U.S. Supreme Court)

States v. Agurs - Case Brief Summary (U.S. Supreme Court)

In States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97, 96 S.Ct. 2392, 49 L.Ed.2d 342 (1976), a federal prosecutor defended his failure to disclose the criminal record of the victim of a homicide on the ground that there had been no specific request for it.

The Circuit Court for the District of Columbia Circuit, holding that the information was nevertheless relevant to the defendant's self-defense theory, ordered a new trial.

In Agurs the Supreme Court analyzed the requirements of materiality in three different situations. First, where the prosecutor's case includes perjured testimony and the prosecution knew, or should have known of the perjury, the undisclosed information is material "if there is any reasonable likelihood that the false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury." 427 U.S. at 103, 96 S.Ct. at 2397.

Second, where the defendant has made a specific request for information, any undisclosed information will be considered material if "the suppressed evidence might have affected the outcome of the trial." Id. at 104, 96 S.Ct. at 2398.

Finally, when no request is made by the defendant or only a general request for Brady material is made, undisclosed information will be held to be material only if "the omitted evidence creates a reasonable doubt that did not otherwise exist." Id. at 112, 96 S.Ct. at 2402.