- Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
- Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
- Date Filed: 08-26-2015
- Case #: 12-57229; 13-56817
- Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Fisher for the Court; Circuit Judges Bybee and Bea
- Full Text Opinion
Frank O’Connell and Francisco Carrillo, Jr. (Carrillo) bring two separate actions for wrongful imprisonment. After their release, both brought separate suits in federal district court against the police investigators involved in their cases, alleging that the officers failed to disclose crucial evidence that would have manifested serious doubt on the prosecutions’ key witnesses. The district courts denied qualified immunity in both cases. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit resolved the issue of whether the police investigators from both cases were entitled to qualified immunity for their failure to disclose material and exculpatory evidence pursuant to Brady v. Maryland (holding the prosecution violates due process where they, upon request, suppress evidence favorable to the accused where the evidence is material either to guilt or punishment), in conjunction with US v. Butler (holding that police officers are also bound to Brady). Under qualified immunity, police officers are protected from 42 U.S.C. § 1983 liability. An officer is entitled to qualified immunity if he or she meets two requirements: (1) the facts that the plaintiff alleges show a violation of a constitutional right; and (2) that constitutional right was “clearly established” at the time of the challenged conduct. The Ninth Circuit only addressed the second prong, and found that the law was “clearly established” for two reasons. First Brady and Butler were established before 1984 and 1991 – O’Connell and Carrillo’s cases respectively. Secondly evidence from both cases was “clearly established” Brady material. In O’Connell’s case, the officers failed to disclose that a different man who resembled the eyewitness’s description of the killer previously attempted to kill the victim. In Carrillo’s case, police investigators coached the eyewitness in his selection of Carrillo in a photo line-up. AFFIRMED.