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What is a Brady violation and why is it important in a 2020 murder case?

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Posted at 4:07 PM, Dec 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-13 19:02:54-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A possible violation of what has become known as the "Brady Rule" has become a point of concern for those involved in a recent Corpus Christi murder case.

In July 2020, 24-year-old Jared Naranjo was charged with the shooting murder of 30-year-old Frederick Rice on the 4500 block of Mokry Drive after the Nueces Co. Medical Examiner's office determined Rice died of multiple gunshot wounds.

Documents obtained by KRIS 6 News now suggest evidence related to this case was not properly turned over to defense attorneys.

When evidence is not properly provided in a case like this, a Brady violation is possible.

What is a Brady violation?

The name "Brady" comes from Brady v. Maryland, a U.S. Supreme Court case from 1963. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that withholding evidence, whether it be on purpose or accidental, violates due process.

"We as defense attorneys are entitled to all the evidence, good, bad, or otherwise, and we don't even have to ask for it," said local attorney Eric Perkins. "They're supposed to provide that to us as a part of their ongoing obligation to provide all the evidence to the defense."

KRIS 6 News reached out to Perkins, who is not involved in the case but is familiar with the facts, because Naranjo's attorney was asked to not comment on the case by his client. Perkins said the evidence withheld in the Naranjo case is a cellphone which allegedly belonged to Rice.

"During the course of the development of the evidence of the case, they discovered that there was a cell phone that they had in possession..." he said. "...at the very least we know that the police department had this phone and apparently had done a data dump on, and was able to obtain information from the phone."

Since 1963, Texas has had a major case that involved not turning over the proper evidence. In 1987, Michael Morton was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He was later exonerated in 2011 after DNA evidence revealed that someone else had murdered his wife.

"Since Brady, we've had the Michael Morton Act in Texas, which actually involved overt malfeasance," Perkins said. A prosecutor who deliberately withheld evidence of Michael Morton's innocence - DNA evidence. Obviously, he was not the perpetrator of the crime," said Perkins. "And, you know, he went to prison and he spent a considerable amount of time in prison before that particular case - (it) was found out that D.A. is no longer a D.A.."

A Brady violation also became a point of contention in the 2021 trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse's attorneys had requested a mistrial based on several issues, including claims that prosecutors acted in bad faith and that the state gave them an inferior copy of a video that may have been a key piece of evidence in the case, according to the Associated Press.

The defense wanted a mistrial with no chance for a retrial but prosecutors said there was “no factual or legal basis” to declare a mistrial.

The Nueces County District Attorney's office filed to dismiss the case against Naranjo, citing:

"During the course of trial, information or evidence in the form of a phone dump was made available for the first time by a witness although it existed for over a year. The information was not disclosed to the State and rose to the level of Brady."

Digital content producer Ana Tamez contributed to this report.