No civil liability for a “Brady violation”
Prelim: “Brady” basically means that the prosecution has to turn over certain unfavorable evidence to the defense side in a criminal trial.
Case: Aguilera v. Wright County, Dist. Court, ND Iowa 2014
Interesting footnote by Judge Mark W. Bennett:
I find this case very disturbing. Were I writing on a clean slate, I would only extend absolute immunity in circumstances where a Brady violation by a prosecutor was both harmless and unintentional—that is, negligent or grossly negligent. On policy grounds, however, I would find absolute immunity inapplicable where a prosecutor’s conduct was intentional and so egregious that a court was compelled to reverse the defendant’s conviction and order a new trial. There should be consequences for such conduct, including both disciplinary action and civil liability. I recognize, however, that the law is well settled that a Brady violation is protected by absolute immunity. I also recognize that, in this case, there are genuine issues of material fact as to who, specifically, failed to disclose the DCI file to Aguilera after the trial court ordered the prosecution to do so and whether that failure was intentional. Aguilera argues that the prosecutors have never been disciplined for the Brady violation found by the Iowa Supreme Court, and the record does not show whether or not they have been. Thus, it appears that, even if the egregious Brady violation in this case was by the prosecutors and was intentional, the prosecutors have, at least thus far, escaped either liability or censure.