BANKS v. DRETKE, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTIONS DIVISION, 540 U.S. 668Subscribe to Cases that cite 02-8286
BANKS v. DRETKE, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, CORRECTIONAL
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
No. 02-8286. Argued December 8, 2003--Decided February 24, 2004
After police found a gun-shot corpse near Texarkana, Texas, Deputy Sheriff Willie Huff learned that the decedent had been seen with petitioner Banks three days earlier. When a paid informant told Deputy Huff that Banks was driving to Dallas to fetch a weapon, Deputy Huff followed Banks to a residence there. On the return trip, police stopped Banks's vehicle, found a handgun, and arrested the car's occupants. Returning to the Dallas residence, Deputy Huff encountered Charles Cook and recovered a second gun, which Cook said Banks had left at the residence several days earlier. On testing, the second gun proved to be the murder weapon. Prior to Banks's trial, the State advised defense counsel that, without necessity of motions, the State would provide Banks with all discovery to which he was entitled. Nevertheless, the State withheld evidence that would have allowed Banks to discredit two essential prosecution witnesses. At the trial's guilt phase, Cook testified, inter alia, that Banks admitted "kill[ing a] white boy." On cross-examination, Cook thrice denied talking to anyone about his testimony. In fact, Deputy Huff and prosecutors intensively coached Cook about his testimony during at least one pretrial session. The prosecution allowed Cook's misstatements to stand uncorrected. After Banks's capital murder conviction, the penalty-phase jury found that Banks would probably commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society. One of the State's two penalty-phase witnesses, Robert Farr, testified that Banks had retrieved a gun from Dallas in order to commit robberies. According to Farr, Banks had said he would "take care of it" if trouble arose during those crimes. Two defense witnesses impeached Farr, but were, in turn, impeached. Banks testified, among other things, that, although he had traveled to Dallas to obtain a gun, he had no intent to participate in the robberies, which Farr alone planned to commit. In summation, the prosecution suggested that Banks had not traveled to Dallas only to supply Farr with a weapon. Stressing Farr's testimony that Banks said he would "take care" of trouble arising during the robberies, the prosecution urged the jury to find Farr credible. Farr's admission that he used narcotics, the prosecution suggested, indicated that he had been open and honest in every way. The State did not disclose that Farr was the paid informant who told Deputy Huff about the Dallas trip. The judge sentenced Banks to death.
Through Banks's direct appeal, the State continued to hold secret Farr's and Cook's links to the police. In a 1992 state-court postconviction motion, Banks alleged for the first time that the prosecution knowingly failed to turn over exculpatory evidence that would have revealed Farr as a police informant and Banks's arrest as a "set-up." Banks also alleged that during the trial's guilt phase, the State deliberately withheld information of a deal prosecutors made with Cook, which would have been critical to the jury's assessment of Cook's credibility. Banks asserted that the State's actions violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U. S. 83, 87, which held that the prosecution's suppression of evidence requested by and favorable to an accused violates due process where the evidence is material to either guilt or punishment, irrespective of the prosecution's good or bad faith. The State denied Banks's allegations, and the state postconviction court rejected his claims.