Vandever v. Murphy
The duty to disclose exculpatory evidence, pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1963 decision in Brady v. Maryland, only applies to criminal prosecutions. Previously, the plaintiff inmate, Frank Vandever, was convicted of murder, kidnapping, robbery and escape from a maximum security prison. In February 2008, prison officials received a confidential tip that the plaintiff was asking about trash procedures. Allegedly, the plaintiff also asked his cellmate to inform him when he worked the "trash run." Concerned that the plaintiff was making plans to escape, officials searched his cell and discovered a road atlas and a boarding pass. They placed the plaintiff in restrictive housing and temporarily transferred the plaintiff to Northern Correctional Institution. The plaintiff sued corrections officials and alleged that they retaliated because of his earlier civil litigation, and that they deprived the plaintiff of equal protection and due process. The plaintiff filed a motion for assistance in discovering the name of a prisoner witness. The plaintiff requested that the District Court order the defendants to disclose the inmate number of his former cellmate, so that he can subpoena him. The plaintiff maintained that his former cellmate would testify in his favor and corroborate his version of events. The plaintiff's reliance on Brady v. Maryland, a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision, was unavailing, because the duty to disclose exculpatory evidence pursuant to Brady only applies to criminal prosecutions. The defendants objected that the Department of Correction does not disclose the identities of confidential informants, because that might affect the safety of informants. The defendants asked the court to decide the admissibility of evidence, an issue that is the province of the trial judge. The court denied the defendants' request for an order to exclude evidence and the plaintiff's request for assistance in identifying his former cellmate, without prejudice.