U.S. Fifth Circuit - The FindLaw 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

$2.3M Jury Verdict Over Brady Violation Reversed

The Alvarez v. City of Brownsville case is one that criminal law and civil rights attorneys and advocates will want to review.

In short, the matter concerns whether a Brady violation occurs if a defendant accepts a plea bargain. Both a panel, and a majority of the full, en banc Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Brady doesn't apply to plea bargains.

Details of the Case

George Alvarez was attacked by a correctional officer. The attack was captured on video. Despite the fact that he was attacked, unprovoked, he was charged with assaulting the officer, and subsequently accepted a plea bargain, pleaded guilty, and sentenced to an 8 year suspended sentence. Unfortunately, he failed to meet the terms of the suspended sentence, and was remanded into custody. He served several years of his sentence before he was ever granted access to the exonerating video evidence, which surfaced in an unrelated matter.

After he was able to get that video, after filing for habeas, he was released, and found factually innocent. In the subsequent civil suit, a jury awarded him a little over $2 million dollars. However, the Fifth Circuit, even after hearing the matter en banc, found that the city could not be held liable for the Brady violation as there is no right to Brady evidence prior to accepting a plea bargain.

Alvarez can seek SCOTUS review, and might be well advised to do so, given the tenor of the three dissenting judges, which all pretty much explain that the majority failed to provide justice to Mr. Alvarez.

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