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.)


Corker Asks Colleagues To "Oppose Blatant Budget Gimmick Proposal To Fund Highway Trust Fund"

In remarks on the U.S. Senate floor Monday, Senator Bob Corker said senators should reject using a budget gimmick known as pension smoothing to pay for a short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund and instead commit to a long-term, sustainable solution to highway funding. “Many claim that budget gimmicks should not be used as offsets to pay for spending," said Senator Corker. ... (click for more)

Cornerstone Community Bank Has Rise In Earnings

Cornerstone Bancshares, Inc. (OTCBB: CSBQ; CSBQP), parent company of Cornerstone Community Bank, today reported earnings for the second quarter ended June 30, including a rise in income. Net income for the quarter was $409,000, a 3.3 percent increase from the same quarter of 2013.  Net interest income increased 5.5 percent from the same quarter last year. “Cornerstone ... (click for more)

EPB Says It Did Not Overbill The City; Says City Got $685,877 Break

EPB officials said Tuesday that an exhaustive audit of its street light contract with the city showed that it did not overbill the city. Instead, it said it found that the city was underbilled $685,877. EPB said it only goes back one year on errors so the amount owed by the city would be $178,314. Officials said that would be discussed with the city. Stan Sewell, the city's ... (click for more)

Citizens To Comment Next Tuesday On Sound Control Ordinance That Allows Higher Sound Around Downtown Clubs

Citizens will be allowed to comment next Tuesday on a new Sound Control Ordinance that allows higher sound from nightclubs in a downtown Controlled Sound Boundary. Track 29 behind the Chattanooga Choo Choo, that has drawn the wrath of some nearby Southside residents, is within the boundary, which goes along the river on the north and west, to around Erlanger Hospital on the ... (click for more)

I'm Number One In A Round About Way

Roundabouts have been popping up all over Chattanooga over the past few years and for the most part have been successful.  Unfortunately there are some who just don’t get it as I have found out the hard way.    My latest instance was last week when a young woman on her cell phone almost t-boned me as she flew into the roundabout without yielding.  A near miss ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Oscar Brock’s True Passion

I don’t pay much attention to the Hamilton County School Board. Once the moon and the stars aligned behind Superintendent Rick Smith, you hear very little, if anything, from the nine-member council that oversees an annual budget of almost $400 million and employs 4,480 people. So chew this for a minute: approximately 2,000 of those people are not teachers. Yes, there are 78 principals ... (click for more)