The Brady Database

57 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2023

See all articles by Brandon L. Garrett

Brandon L. Garrett

Duke University School of Law

Adam M. Gershowitz

William & Mary Law School

Jennifer Teitcher

Duke University School of Law

Date Written: June 6, 2023

Abstract

The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brady v. Maryland turns sixty this year. The Brady doctrine, which requires the government to disclose favorable and material evidence to the defendant, is one of the most frequently litigated criminal procedure issues. Yet, despite decades of Brady cases in federal and state courts, we still know relatively little about how Brady claims are litigated, adjudicated, and what such claims can tell us about the criminal justice system writ large. Scholars are in the dark about how often Brady violations occur, whether it is primarily the fault of prosecutors or the police, whether violations are intentional or accidental, and a host of related questions.

This Article fills a gap in the data and literature by analyzing five years of Brady claims—over 800 cases—raised in state and federal courts. We coded each case for more than forty variables to answer big-picture questions like how often Brady claims are successful and which courts are most likely to grant relief. We also studied more intricate questions such as the types of crimes and evidence at issue, whether judges deemed violations intentional or accidental, and whether judges chastised or disciplined prosecutors for failing to disclose evidence.

Our study revealed some important and surprising findings. Despite suggestions in some quarters that prosecutorial misconduct is not a major problem, courts found Brady violations in 10% of the cases in our study. Prosecutors, not police, were responsible for most violations and they were almost never referred to the Bar for discipline. While federal prosecutors are supposed to be elite highly trained lawyers, they were responsible for a disproportionate share of Brady violations. And while the federal courts are lauded as the protector of civil liberties, it was state courts that granted relief more frequently, often on direct review rather than in habeas corpus proceedings as scholars would have expected.

These findings and many others—such as petitioners having to wait on average ten years for relief for Brady violations—demonstrate that we continue to have egregious prosecutorial misconduct problems in the United States and that further study is needed. To that end, this project not only reports significant data, but also is the first step in the creation of a searchable database that we are creating to empower other researchers to further analyze how Brady claims are being litigated and adjudicated.

Keywords: Brady v. Maryland, prosecutorial misconduct, due process, database, police misconduct, professional ethics, post-conviction remedies

Suggested Citation

Garrett, Brandon L. and Gershowitz, Adam M. and Teitcher, Jennifer, The Brady Database (June 6, 2023). Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Forthcoming, Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series No. 2023-33, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4470780

Brandon L. Garrett (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States
919-613-7090 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.brandonlgarrett.com/

Adam M. Gershowitz

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

Jennifer Teitcher

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Durham, NC 27708
United States

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