United States v. Houston

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 08-03-2011
  • Case #: 07-50478; 08-50165
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Rymer for the Court; Circuit Judges Callahan and Ikuta
  • Full Text Opinion

The offering of new, potentially exculpating evidence by the prosecution to the defense during the cross-examination of a witness does not constitute a Brady violation when the value of that evidence was first learned by the parties during the testimony of the witness.

Henry Michael Houston and Wayne Bridgewater, inmates at United States Prison at Lewisberg and members of the Aryan Brotherhood (“AB”), were convicted of a RICO violation and a RICO conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c) & (d), and two counts of a VICAR crime related to their involvement in prison murders perpetrated by the AB. First, Houston and Bridgewater argued on appeal that the prosecution violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) by failing to sufficiently produce exculpatory evidence at trial – i.e., the notes and testimony of an assistant U.S. Attorney who had interviewed the prosecution witness McConaghy. The Court held that no Brady violation existed, as the government turned over the AUSA’s notes to the defense once the evidentiary value of them was learned during the cross-examination of the witness. Second, petitioners asserted that McConaghy offered perjured testimony, and that testimony violated their due process rights under Napue v. Illinois, 360 U.S. 264 (1959). The Court held that no Napue violation existed, for while the content of the AUSA’s notes questioned McConaghy’s credibility, they did not establish he had lied during trial, and petitioners offered no other way for the government to establish the veracity of McConaghy’s testimony. Third, petitioners raised several instruction error claims: (1) that the district court should have given instructions on duress; (2) that the VICAR murder instructions omitted the requirement that the killing be related to maintaining rank in the AB; and (3) the district court should have given an instruction “allowing the jury to find second degree murder as the predicate murder offense . . . .” The Court rejected each of these arguments in turn. AFFIRMED.

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