Sivak v. Hardison

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 09-07-2011
  • Case #: 08-99006
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge M. Smith for the Court; Chief Judge Alex Kozinski and Circuit Judge S. Thomas
  • Full Text Opinion

Prosecutors, that knew or should have known that given material information was false or material information was withheld, violate a defendant’s due process rights according to the Brady and Napue standards.

A jury convicted Lacey Sivak of felony murder, for the murder of Dixie Wilson, but acquitted him of premeditated murder. The trial judge sentenced Sivak to death after hearing testimony from Sivak’s co-defendant and two jailhouse informants, of aggravating factors that were not mitigated by the testimony the defense presented. Sivak filed a habeas petition, which was denied by the district court. The petition was filed before the effective date of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) and the Ninth Circuit reviewed it on pre-AEDPA standards. Sivak claimed his due process rights were violated by the State’s presentation of perjured testimony in both the guilt and sentencing phases. The Ninth Circuit held that based on Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) and Napue v. Illinois, 360 U.S. 264 (1959) the State did not violate Sivak’s due process rights during the guilt phase but did violate his due process rights during the sentencing phase. The Court held, since the true motives of the informants were withheld, the information was material and favorable to the accused. The Court found “the prosecution knew or should have known the testimony was actually false” and the sentencing could have turned out differently, both Brady and Napue were therefore violated. However, the Court held the conviction would not have turned out differently. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part, and REMANDED.

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