Lee Davis: 6th Circuit Says Information Must Be Exculpatory For Brady Violation To Have Occurred

Thursday, February 14, 2013
Lee Davis
Lee Davis

Late last week the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals released a ruling in the Rodrigo Macias-Farias case. The incident involved Macias-Farias who was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 320 months in prison. He appealed his conviction, claiming that the district court made a mistake denying his motion for a mistrial and that his sentence was unfairly enhanced due to an obstruction of justice charge. Though the Sixth Circuit disagreed with Macias-Farias about the mistrial, the judges did agree that due to a procedural error his case should be remanded for resentencing.

The complicated affair began when DEA agents spotted a truck carrying 1,600 pounds of marijuana.

The driver of the truck told the agents that he was told to take the truck to an undisclosed location near Louisville, KY and, fearing his own arrest, agreed to cooperate with the DEA agents. While the DEA supervised the transaction, the man drove his truck into a parking lot outside Louisville where a van registered to Macias-Farias pulled up and eventually drove way. The agents claim to have maintained a constant visual surveillance of the truck all night, yet when the truck was finally searched the next day they discovered that the entire cargo of 1,600 pounds of pot had miraculously gone missing.

DEA agents next applied pressure on one of Macias-Farias’ associates, Sean Lacefield. Lacefield agreed to cooperate and set up a drug buy with Macias-Farias. Adding further humiliation to the DEA, agents got lost on the way to the drug deal and missed the transaction. Lacefield eventually tipped off the DEA to yet another drug shipment which they were able to catch only because the truck carrying the 3,700 pounds of marijuana got stuck in a ditch.

At trial, a DEA agent on cross-examination revealed a new bit of information. Evidently a statement from another party, a woman named Amber Babor, helped lead the DEA to suspect Macias-Farias and played a part in their previous attempt to set up a drug buy in Louisville with Lacefield. The problem is that her statement was never disclosed to the defense counsel, something that defense argued was a Brady violation and which denied Macias-Farias his right to confrontation given that Babor was not present in court. The defense then moved for a mistrial which was denied by the lower court.

The Sixth Circuit concluded that the lower court’s denial of the motion for mistrial was appropriate given that for a Brady claim to prevail, a defendant must show that the evidence that was withheld was favorable to the accused, either because it was exculpatory or because it was impeaching. Macias-Farias failed to show that the evidence was favorable to him. If anything, the Sixth Circuit says, the evidence was inculpatory rather than exculpatory.

To read the full opinion, click here.

---

(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at lee@davis-hoss.com or at 266-0605.)



Chattanooga Chamber Calendar Of Events For Oct. 23-27

TUES/24 East Brainerd Council Meeting 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Car Barn:  6721 Heritage Business Court Speaker: Steven Wagner, Erlanger Children's Hospital $12.   TUES/24 Grand Re-Opening of Food City 5 - 5:30 p.m. Food City:  7804 E. Brainerd Rd .   THUR/26 Reality Check - East Ridge High School ... (click for more)

Catherine Heigel Named Chief Operating Officer For Elliott Davis

Catherine Heigel, the former director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, has returned to Elliott Davis, LLC as its chief operating officer.  In this role, Ms. Heigel manages the firm’s operational support functions, including legal, information technology, human resource, marketing and communications, and firm administration. In addition, ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain To Hold Public Meetings On Idea Of Setting Up Own School System

Discussion about follow-up public meetings regarding the Signal Mountain School System Viability Committee (SMSSVC) report dominated the council’s work session on Friday afternoon. Council member Dan Landrum’s opinion about how to proceed differed from the other four council members. Mr. Landrum argued to end the study and to hold no public meetings. His reason was that of the 738 ... (click for more)

Man Shot Multiple Times In Cleveland; Jesus Teague, 14, Is Arrested

On Saturday, at 6:12 a.m., Cleveland Police Department responded to 1210 Elrod Place SE in reference to a domestic disturbance.   A man sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was transported to Erlanger by Life Force. His condition is stable, at this time.   The suspect, Jesus Tyler Teague, 14, was located and was in custody as of 3:25 p.m. ... (click for more)

October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Myth And Fact Check

My husband and I recently had the privilege of participating in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Chattanooga. I listened as my husband told the audience about how his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when he was nine and how she died from the disease when he was fourteen. As a child, my husband didn’t understand what breast cancer ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

Bill Pennington, a sports writer for the New York Times, was lamenting the “huddle” is slowly disappearing in football due to the faster pace of the game and, during his search for more information, he called former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann. Bill wrote that Joe couldn’t stop laughing about the funny things that would happen between plays. Joe told this story: ... (click for more)