Brady v. Maryland (1963)

IRAC Summary: Brady v. Maryland (1963)

Issue: The primary issue is whether the prosecution’s suppression of evidence favorable to the accused, which is material either to guilt or to punishment, violates due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Rule: The rule is that the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.

Application: In this case, Brady’s co-defendant, Boblit, confessed to the actual killing, and this confession was withheld from the defense. Brady admitted to participating in the crime but claimed he did not perform the act of killing. The confession could have affected the jury’s decision regarding Brady’s punishment. The suppression of this evidence by the prosecution was a violation of due process because it was material to the punishment Brady would receive and he had specifically requested all evidence related to the case.

Conclusion: The Supreme Court held that Brady’s due process rights were violated and remanded the case for reconsideration of his punishment, not his conviction.

Detailed IRAC Outline

Issue: The detailed issue in Brady v. Maryland revolves around the specific legal question of whether Brady was denied due process when the prosecution withheld a co-defendant’s confession that could have influenced the degree of his culpability and punishment.

Rule: The applicable legal principle established that withholding material evidence favorable to the defendant upon request violates due process. This principle is derived from the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which mandates fair legal proceedings, and it is applied when assessing the materiality and relevance of the suppressed evidence to the accused’s defense.


  • Facts:
    • John Leo Brady and Charles Boblit were involved in a murder.
    • Brady claimed he participated in the crime but did not perform the actual killing.
    • Brady requested all pertinent evidence related to the case.
    • Boblit’s confession to the murder was not disclosed to Brady’s defense.
    • The jury was unaware of the confession that could have influenced their decision regarding Brady’s degree of culpability and his punishment.
  • Trial Court Proceedings:
    • Brady was tried and convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.
    • Boblit’s confession was withheld during the trial.
    • After being convicted, Brady learned of the withheld confession.
  • Appeal:
    • Brady appealed, arguing that the suppression of the confession violated his due process rights.
    • The Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the conviction but remanded the case for a retrial of the punishment only.
  • Supreme Court Analysis:
    • The Supreme Court reviewed whether the withheld confession was material to the guilt or punishment.
    • The Court determined that the confession, if disclosed, could have influenced the jury’s sentiment on punishment.
    • The Court concluded that the prosecution’s failure to disclose such evidence constituted a violation of due process.

Conclusion: The Supreme Court vacated the death sentence and remanded the case for a new trial limited to the question of punishment. The Court did not overturn Brady’s conviction but recognized his right to a fair trial, which includes the disclosure of material evidence that could affect the outcome of his sentencing. Brady v. Maryland thus established the precedent for what would be known as the “Brady Rule,” requiring the prosecution to disclose material evidence favorable to the accused.

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