CHARLES S. TURNER, ET AL., PETITIONERS
UNITED STATES RUSSELL L. OVERTON, PETITIONER
March 29, 2017
WRITS OF CERTIORARI TO THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF
Catlett, Russell Overton, Levy Rouse, Kelvin Smith, Charles
and Christopher Turner, and Clifton Yarborough- and several
others were indicted for the kidnaping, robbery, and murder
of Catherine Fuller. At trial, the Government advanced the
theory that Fuller was attacked by a large group of
individuals. Its evidentiary centerpiece consisted of the
testimony of Calvin Alston and Harry Bennett, who confessed
to participating in a group attack and cooperated with the
Government in return for leniency. Several other Government
witnesses corroborated aspects of Alston's and
Bennett's testimony. Melvin Montgomery testified that he
was in a park among a group of people, heard someone say they
were "going to get that one, " saw petitioner
Overton pointing to Fuller, and saw several persons,
including some petitioners, cross the street in her
direction. Maurice Thomas testified that he saw the attack,
identified some petitioners as participants, and later
overheard petitioner Catlett say that they "had to kill
her." Carrie Eleby and Linda Jacobs testified that they
heard screams coming from an alley where a "gang of
boys" was beating someone near a garage, approached the
group, and saw some petitioners participating in the attack.
Finally, the Government played a videotape of petitioner
Yarborough's statement to detectives, describing how he
was part of a large group that carried out the attack. None
of the defendants rebutted the prosecution witnesses'
claims that Fuller was killed in a group attack. The seven
petitioners were convicted.
Long after their convictions became final, petitioners
discovered that the Government had withheld evidence from the
defense at the time of trial. In postconviction proceedings,
they argued that seven specific pieces of withheld evidence
were both favorable to the defense and material to their
guilt under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83. This
evidence included the identity of a man seen running into the
alley after the murder and stopping near the garage where
Fuller's body had already been found; the statement of a
passerby who claimed to hear groans coming from a closed
garage; and evidence tending to impeach witnesses Eleby,
Jacobs, and Thomas. The D. C. Superior Court rejected
petitioners' Brady claims, finding that the
withheld evidence was not material. The D. C. Court of
Held: The withheld evidence is not material under
Brady. Pp. 9-14.
(a) The Government does not contest petitioners' claim
that the withheld evidence was "favorable to the
defense." Petitioners and the Government, however, do
contest the materiality of the undisclosed Brady
information. Such "evidence is 'material' . . .
when there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence
been disclosed, the result of the proceeding would have been
different." Cone v. Bell, 556 U.S. 449,
469-470. "A 'reasonable probability' of a
different result" is one in which the suppressed
evidence " 'undermines confidence in the outcome of
the trial.'" Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S.
419, 434. To make that determination, this Court
"evaluate [s]" the withheld evidence "in the
context of the entire record." United States v.
Agurs, 427 U.S.97, 112. Pp. 9-11.
(b) Petitioners' main argument is that, had they known
about the withheld evidence, they could have challenged the
Government's basic group attack theory by raising an
alternative theory, namely, that a single perpetrator (or two
at most) had attacked Fuller. Considering the withheld
evidence "in the context of the entire record, "
Agurs, supra, at 112, that evidence is too little,
too weak, or too distant from the main evidentiary points to
meet Brady's standards.
A group attack was the very cornerstone of the
Government's case, and virtually every witness to the
crime agreed that Fuller was killed by a large group of
perpetrators. It is not reasonably probable that the withheld
evidence could have led to a different result at trial.
Petitioners' problem is that their current alternative
theory would have had to persuade the jury that both Alston
and Bennett falsely confessed to being active participants in
a group attack that never occurred; that Yarborough falsely
implicated himself in that group attack and yet gave a highly
similar account of how it occurred; that Thomas, an otherwise
disinterested witness, wholly fabricated his story; that both
Eleby and Jacobs likewise testified to witnessing a group
attack that did not occur; and that Montgomery in fact did
not see petitioners and others, as a group, identify Fuller
as a target and leave together to rob her.
As for the undisclosed impeachment evidence, the record shows
that it was largely cumulative of impeachment evidence
petitioners already had and used at trial. This is not to
suggest that impeachment evidence is immaterial with respect
to a witness who has already been impeached with other
evidence, see Wearry v. Cain, 577 U.S.___, ___ ___.
But in the context of this trial, with respect to these
witnesses, the cumulative effect of the withheld evidence is
insufficient to undermine confidence in the jury's
verdict, see Smith v. Cain, 565 U.S. 73, 75-76. Pp.
116 A. 3d 894');">116 A. 3d 894, affirmed.
BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
ROBERTS, C. J., and Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and Sotomayor,
JJ., joined. Ka-GAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which
GlNSBURG, J., joined. GOR-SUCH, J., took no part in the
consideration or decision of the cases.
Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), this Court
held that the government violates the Constitution's Due
Process Clause "if it withholds evidence that is
favorable to the defense and material to the
defendant's guilt or punishment." Smith v.
Cain, 565 U.S. 73, 75 (2012) (emphasis added)
(summarizing Brady holding). In 1985 the seven
petitioners in these cases were tried together in the
Superior Court for the District of Columbia for the
kidnaping, armed robbery, and murder of Catherine Fuller.
Long after petitioners' convictions became final, it
emerged that the Government possessed certain evidence that
it failed to disclose to the defense. The only question
before us here is whether that withheld evidence was
"material" under Brady. The D. C. Superior
Court, after a 16-day evidentiary hearing, determined that
the withheld evidence was not material. Catlett v. United
States, Crim. No. 8617-FEL-84 etc. (Aug. 6, 2012), App.
to Pet. for Cert, in No. 15-1503, pp. 84a, n. 4, 81a-131a.
The D. C. Court of Appeals reviewed the record, reached the
same conclusion, and affirmed the Superior Court. 116 A. 3d
894 (2015). After reviewing the record, we reach the same
conclusion as did the lower courts.
these fact-intensive cases, we set out here only a basic
description of the record facts along with our reasons for
reaching our conclusion. We refer those who wish more detail
to the opinions of the lower courts. App. to Pet. for Cert,
in No. 15-1503, at 81a-131a; 116 A. 3d 894');">116 A. 3d 894.
March 22, 1985, a grand jury indicted the seven
petitioners-Timothy Catlett, Russell Overton, Levy Rouse,
Kelvin Smith, Charles Turner, Christopher Turner, and Clifton
Yarborough-and several others for the kidnaping, robbery, and
murder of Catherine Fuller. The evidence produced at their
joint trial showed that on October 1, 1984, at around 4:30
p.m., Catherine Fuller left her home to go shopping. At
around 6 p.m., William Freeman, a street vendor, found
Fuller's body inside an alley garage between Eighth and
Ninth Street N. E., just a few blocks from Fuller's home.
See Appendix, infra (showing a map of the area in
which the murder was committed). Fuller had been robbed,
severely beaten, and sodomized with an object that caused
extensive internal injuries.
Government advanced the theory at trial that Fuller had been
attacked in the alley by a large group of individuals,
including petitioners; codefendants Steve Webb, Alfonso
Harris, and Felicia Ruffin; as well as by Calvin Alston and
Harry Bennett. The Government's evidentiary centerpiece
consisted of testimony by Alston and Bennett, who confessed
to participating in the offense and who cooperated with the
Government in return for leniency. Although the testimony of
Alston and Bennett diverged on minor details, it was
consistent in stating that, and describing how, Fuller was
attacked by a sizable group of individuals, including
petitioners and they themselves.
testified that at about 4:10 p.m. on the day of the murder,
he arrived in a park located on H Street between Eighth and
Ninth Streets. He said he found a group of people gathered
there. It included petitioners Levy Rouse, Russell Overton,
Christopher Turner, Charles Turner, Kelvin Smith, Clifton
Yarborough, and Timothy Catlett, as well as several
codefendants and others. Those in the group were talking and
singing while Catlett was banging out a beat. Alston
suggested "getting paid" by robbing someone. App.
A467. Catlett, Overton, Rouse, Smith, Charles Turner,
Christopher Turner, Yarborough, and several others agreed.
Alston pointed at Catherine Fuller, who was walking on the
other side of H Street near the corner of H and Eighth
Streets. Those in the group said they were "game for
getting paid." Id., at A471-A472. Alston,
Rouse, Yarborough, and Charles Turner crossed H Street moving
toward Eighth Street and followed Fuller down Eighth Street.
The rest of the group crossed H Street and moved toward Ninth
Street. When Alston's group approached Fuller, Charles
Turner shoved her into an alley that runs between Eighth and
Ninth Streets. Charles Turner, Rouse, and Alston began
punching Fuller. They were soon joined by Christopher Turner,
Smith, and others. All of them continued to hit and kick
Fuller until she fell to the ground. Rouse and Charles Turner
then carried Fuller to the center of the alley and dropped
her in front of a garage located at the point where the alley
joins another, perpendicular alley that runs toward I Street.
Someone dragged Fuller into the garage. Alston, Rouse,
Charles Turner, Overton, Yarborough, and Catlett followed.
Others stood outside. Members of the group tore Fuller's
clothes off and struggled over her change purse. Overton and
Charles Turner then held Fuller's legs, and Alston,
Catlett, Harris, and Yarborough stood around her while Rouse
sodomized her with a foot-long pipe. Shortly after, the group
dispersed and left the alley.
Bennett's testimony was similar. Bennett also described a
group attack. He said that he had gone to the H Street park,
where he saw Rouse, Overton, Christopher Turner, Smith,
Catlett, and others gathered. Alston was talking to the group
about "[g]etting paid" and said "let's go
get that lady." Id., at A368-A370. At that
point Alston, Rouse, Overton, and Webb crossed H Street and
approached Fuller, while Catlett, Christopher Turner, Charles
Turner, and Harris followed in a separate group. Bennett
added that he himself went to the corner of Eighth and H
Streets to watch for police. He then went into the alley and
joined the group in kicking and beating Fuller. He testified
that at least 12 people were there, with some beating Fuller
and others watching or picking up her jewelry. Overton then
dragged Fuller into the garage, and Bennett, Rouse,
Christopher Turner, Charles Turner, Catlett, Smith, Harris,
and Webb followed, as did some "girls."
Id., at A402-A405. Alston and Steve Webb held
Fuller's legs, and Rouse sodomized her with a pole. The
group then dispersed from the garage and alley.
Government presented several other witnesses who corroborated
aspects of Alston's and Bennett's testimony,
including the fact that Fuller was attacked by a group.
Melvin Montgomery testified that he was in the H Street park
on the afternoon of the murder. He saw Overton, Catlett,
Rouse, Charles Turner, and others gathered there. The group
was being noisy and singing a song about need- ing money.
Somebody then said they were "going to get that one,
" and Montgomery saw that Overton was pointing to a
woman standing on the corner of Eighth Street. Id.,
at 77-79. Overton, Catlett, Rouse, Charles Turner, and others
crossed H Street. Some headed toward Eighth Street while
others went toward Ninth Street. Montgomery did not follow
Thomas, then 14 years old, testified that he witnessed the
attack itself. Thomas lived in the neighborhood and knew many
of the defendants. As he was walking home, he glanced down
the Eighth Street alley and saw a group surrounding Fuller.
Thomas saw Catlett pat Fuller down and then hit her. He then
saw everyone in the group join in hitting her. Thomas said he
knew Catlett, Yarborough, Rouse, Charles Turner, Christopher
Turner, and Smith and recognized them in the group. Thomas
heard Fuller calling for help. He ran home where he found his
aunt, who told him not to tell anyone what he saw. Later that
day, Thomas saw ...