Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law

Death Sentence Reversed Because Prosecution Failed to Provide Defense with a Parole File Containing Exculpatory Mental Health Evidence; Ruling Not Disturbed

Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law

Death Sentence Reversed Because Prosecution Failed to Provide Defense with a Parole File Containing Exculpatory Mental Health Evidence; Ruling Not Disturbed

Article excerpt

In Brady v. Maryland (1963), the U.S. Supreme Court established that the prosecution has a responsibility to provide the defense with material, exculpatory evidence in its possession and that a failure to do so is grounds for overturning a conviction. Questions have periodically arisen over when this responsibility to disclose extends to evidence pertaining to the defendant's mental status.

The Georgia Supreme Court vacated a defendant's death sentence after finding that the State had violated Brady by suppressing parole records that supported the defendant's claim of mental retardation. The court noted that the file would have established that State officials and his mother had characterized him as mentally retarded in the 1970s, which would have refuted the prosecutor's claim that the defense had recently concocted his alleged mental retardation.

The court also determined that the file indicated that a State official had described a relatively high IQ test score of the defendant's as being "questionable," which would have undercut the prosecutor's reliance on this test as direct evidence of his intelligence level. …

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