16:54, June 22 331 0 abajournal.com

2017-06-22 16:54:05
Undisclosed evidence doesn’t merit overturning convictions in ‘84 gang murder, Supreme Court rules

Evidence withheld by prosecutors in the group prosecution of gang members in a high-profile 1984 murder case wasn’t material to guilt, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

The 6-2 decision upheld convictions for seven defendants in the murder of Catherine Fuller, a case that “helped cement the image of the nation’s capital as a violent and dangerous place,” the Washington Post reports.

Fuller had been robbed, beaten and sodomized with an object that caused extensive injuries, according to the majority opinion (PDF) by Justice Stephen G. Breyer. Her body was found in an alley garage.

The government had contended that Fuller was attacked by a large group of people that included eight convicted defendants, one of whom later died. The defendants had pursued a “not me, maybe them” defense that claimed they were not part of the group that attacked Fuller, according to Breyer.

One piece of undisclosed evidence concerned a report that one of two men seen by a witness in the vicinity had been arrested after the attack for beating and robbing two women in the neighborhood. In addition, seven years after the trial in Fuller’s murder, the man robbed, sodomized and murdered a young woman in an alley.

The defendants claimed that, if they had known about the man in the area, they would have challenged the government’s theory of a group attack.

Breyer, however, said the withheld evidence “is too little, too weak, or too distant from the main evidentiary points to meet” to meet the materiality standard established in Brady v. Maryland.

Virtually every witness to the crime agreed that Fuller had been attacked by a large group of people, Breyer said. It is not reasonably probable that disclosure of the evidence would have changed the result.

Justice Elena Kagan dissented in an opinion joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The case is Turner v. United States.