Alvarez v. City of Brownsville

Special ed teen pleads guilty to assaulting Brownsville, Tex. corrections officer. Four years into his eight-year prison sentence, video emerges that exonerates him; he’s released. Fifth Circuit (en banc): But he can’t sue the gov’t for hiding exculpatory evidence because he pleaded guilty. The right to receive exculpatory evidence applies only to trials, not to plea-bargaining. By entering a guilty plea, the teen waived the right to a trial and, by extension, the right to receive exculpatory evidence. Judge Ho, concurring: And criminal defendants should be glad that Brady rights are waivable; it gives them the option to trade that right for something better, like less jail time. (Indeed, an unwaivable right is like receiving an elephant as a gift from the King of Siam: if you can’t sell the elephant, return it, or trade it, then the pachyderms will “inevitably eat their owners out of house and home.”) Judge Costa, dissenting: The trend among our sister courts is to recognize Brady rights pre-trial.

Tags: 2018, Brady Rights, Fifth Circuit, Judge Costa, Judge Ho

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