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United States v. Stewart

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

February 10, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
DONTA KWAME STEWART, Defendant.

          VICTORIA A. ROBERTS DISTRICT JUDGE.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY [19]

          MONA K. MAJZOUB UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Donta Stewart's Motion to Compel Discovery. (Docket no. 19.) Plaintiff United States of America responded to Defendant's Motion (docket no. 22), and Defendant replied to Plaintiff's Response (docket no. 23). The Motion has been referred to the undersigned for consideration. (Docket no. 20.) The Court has reviewed the pleadings and dispenses with oral argument pursuant to Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f)(2). The Court is now ready to rule pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant was arrested on August 20, 2016, while attending a block party. Officers Adam Szklarsky, William Zeolla, and Martel Reed of the Detroit Police Department were on routine patrol in a marked police car when, at about 12:45 a.m., they observed the party and stopped to investigate. (Docket no. 19 at 5.) Officer Szklarsky allegedly saw Defendant discard a handgun under a nearby car as the officers pulled up. Officer Zeolla then got out of the police car and allegedly retrieved the gun from underneath the car. The officers confirmed that Defendant was not a concealed pistol license holder and arrested him. They did not take any witness statements at the scene or record their interactions with Defendant. (Id. at 5-6.)

         Officer Shannon Richardson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives later determined that Defendant had been convicted of felony armed robbery and felony carjacking in 2008, and that the handgun had “previously travelled in interstate commerce.” (Docket no. 1 at 3.) On October 13, 2016, Defendant was indicted on one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). (Docket no. 15.) On November 2, 2016, Defendant filed the instant Motion to Compel. (Docket no. 19.)

         Through his Motion to Compel, Defendant seeks a court order compelling Plaintiff to “conduct an initial review of the three officers' disciplinary files, ” and to produce “all potentially exculpatory evidence” which Plaintiff discovers therein, “before [Defendant] is expected to make a decision about whether to go to trial.” (Docket no. 19 at 12.)

         II. GOVERNING LAW

         “There is no general constitutional right to discovery in a criminal case.” Weatherford v. Bursey, 429 U.S. 545, 559 (1977). Rather, the discovery available to a criminal defendant is generally limited to those areas set forth in Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16 as well as to material whose disclosure is required under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) and the Jencks Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3500. United States v. Presser, 844 F.2d 1275, 1285 n.12 (6th Cir. 1988).

         Brady v. Maryland holds that a defendant's due process rights are violated when the government withholds evidence favorable to the defendant that is material to guilt or sentencing. Brady, 373 U.S. at 87. The Brady rule extends to evidence which could be used to impeach the credibility of a government witness “when the reliability of a given witness may well be determinative of guilt or innocence.” Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150, 153-54 (1972) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Evidence is material under Brady and Giglio “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, 470 (2009) (citing United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 682 (1985)).

         “The Supreme Court has made clear that the Brady rule is not an evidentiary rule which grants broad discovery powers to a defendant.” United States v. Todd, 920 F.2d 399, 405 (6th Cir. 1990). “The Court also has made it clear that while the Brady rule imposes a general obligation upon the government to disclose evidence that is favorable to the accused and material to guilt or punishment, the government typically is the sole judge of what evidence in its possession is subject to disclosure.” Presser, 844 F.2d at 1281.

         Specifically regarding personnel files, the Sixth Circuit has held that the Government is not obligated to produce personnel files of testifying agents for impeachment purposes based solely upon the defendant's speculation that the files may contain impeaching or material information. See United States v. Driscoll, 970 F.2d 1472 (6th Cir. 1992), abrogated on other grounds by Hampton v. United States, 191 F.3d 695 (6th Cir. 1999). Hence, a defendant must base his request for personnel files on more than mere conjecture that the files might contain information important to his case. Id. at 1482.

         Finally, as for the timing regarding disclosure of Brady or Giglio materials, the Supreme Court has expressly held that the Constitution does not require “preguilty plea disclosure of impeachment information.” United States v. Ruiz, 536 U.S. 622, 629 (2002) (emphasis added).

         III. ...


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