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Jose Aguilera was convicted of second-degree murder. In his second application for postconviction relief, Aguilera contended that he was denied due process when the prosecution failed to turn over an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation file containing several witness statements prior to Aguilera's initial trial. The district court found the material was suppressed and that it was favorable but that it was not material to the issue of guilt and dismissed the application. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals and reversed the district court, holding that because the suppressed, favorable statements that were not turned over by the State had a reasonable probability of impacting the outcome of the trial, a Brady violation occurred, and Aguilera's due process rights were violated. Remanded.Receive FREE Daily Opinion Summaries by Email
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF IOWA
Filed December 9, 2011
JOSE ANGEL AGUILERA,
STATE OF IOWA,
On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Wright County, James M.
Appellant seeks further review from the court of appeals decision
affirming the denial of his second application for postconviction relief.
DECISION OF THE COURT OF APPEALS VACATED; JUDGMENT OF
THE DISTRICT COURT REVERSED, AND CASE REMANDED.
Martyn S. Elberg of Elberg Law Office, P.L.C., Eagle Grove, for
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Sharon K. Hall, Assistant
Attorney General, and Eric R. Simonson, County Attorney, for appellee.
Jose Angel Aguilera was convicted of second-degree murder in
In his second application for postconviction relief, Aguilera
contends that he was denied due process when the prosecution failed to
turn over an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) file containing
several witness statements prior to Aguilera’s initial trial.
court found the material was suppressed and that it was favorable, but
that it was not material to the issue of guilt and dismissed the
The court of appeals affirmed, and we granted further
review. For the reasons expressed below, we reverse the district court.
I. Factual Background and Procedural History.
On August 18, 1996, Aguilera attended a party that was hosted by
Salvador Guido. 1
The victim, Jesus “Jesse” Garcia, also attended,
though neither had been invited.
Aguilera’s wife, Zeidy.
Garcia had recently moved in with
Guido and Lorenzo Lopez, who was also at the
house that night, were the only “eyewitnesses” who testified at trial. At
trial, each testified that Aguilera approached Garcia while Garcia was
sitting in his Blazer. The two exchanged words and taunts, and Garcia
exited the car. At that point, Aguilera pulled out a gun and shot Garcia
in the chest. Although both Guido and Lopez acknowledged Garcia and
disagreement as to how far apart the two were when the gun went off.
Guido placed the two six feet apart when the shot was fired and testified
they only struggled after the shot was fired. Lopez indicated the two had
struggled over the gun before or at the same time as the shot was fired.
social security card, his resident alien card, and a few early court
documents spell his name Salbador Guido. However, at trial, he was identified as
At trial, witnesses testified that Aguilera was afraid that Garcia, who had
just moved in with Aguilera’s wife, would attempt to kidnap Aguilera’s
daughter. According to their testimony, Aguilera appeared nervous and
mentioned that men might be coming to harm him or take his daughter
and that he needed the gun that was ultimately used to shoot Garcia for
his own personal protection. Aguilera attempted to portray the shooting
as either an accident, self-defense, or as a voluntary manslaughter
killing, whereas the State sought a first-degree murder conviction.
In December 1996, a jury found Aguilera guilty of second-degree
murder, and the trial court imposed sentence in January 1997.
conviction and sentence were affirmed by the court of appeals in 1998.
Aguilera filed a postconviction relief application based on alleged errors
in the jury instructions. The application was dismissed in 2000, and he
appealed. The appeal was dismissed for want of prosecution later that
In 2005, Aguilera filed a second application for postconviction
relief, which was amended in 2007.
The second application is the
subject of this appeal. It was based on an alleged Brady violation 2 and
various other issues that were not appealed. The application alleged that
the State failed to turn over a DCI file containing interviews with various
The file was turned over on October 2, 2006.
Two of the
2A Brady violation is a due process violation that occurs when the state fails to
turn over exculpatory evidence. See Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87, 83 S. Ct.
1194, 1196, 10 L. Ed. 2d 215, 218 (1963).
also argued that the assistant county attorney who prosecuted him
was subsequently convicted of several crimes and that these convictions amount to
newly discovered evidence warranting a new trial. The assistant county attorney in this
case, Jeffery TeKippe, was found guilty of misconduct in office and his conviction was
affirmed by the court of appeals in 2009. State v. Tekippe, No. 07–1840, 2009 WL
1492660 (Iowa Ct. App. May 29, 2009). Aguilera’s brief claims TeKippe’s conviction is
new evidence; but in order to be newly discovered evidence, the new evidence must have
“been known to the prosecution but unknown to the defense” at the time of trial.
Harrington v. State, 659 N.W.2d 509, 522 (Iowa 2003) (internal quotation marks
individuals whose interviews were included in the file testified at trial
(Guido and Lopez) and four did not (Ramae Shuver, Zeidy Aguilera,
Roberto Reyes, and Graciela Lucio).
The contents of these statements
and any potential impact they may have had on the trial’s outcome will
be discussed in greater detail throughout the opinion.
In January of 2010, the district court dismissed Aguilera’s
postconviction relief application. The district court concluded that the
entire DCI file containing the statements had been suppressed and that
it contained exculpatory information.
However, the district court also
concluded that the statements were not material and Aguilera was not
prejudiced by not having them available prior to trial. Aguilera appealed
The court of appeals found that portions of Guido’s
statements contained in the DCI file were not suppressed because they
had been revealed to Aguilera by virtue of a detailed pretrial disclosure.
The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s conclusion that Guido’s
statement was exculpatory, but not suppressed or material. The court of
appeals concluded that Lopez’s statements were suppressed and
exculpatory, but his statements were also not material to the issue of
The court of appeals found the remaining statements were
suppressed and could have had impeachment value, but were not
material to the issue of guilt. Accordingly, it affirmed the dismissal. We
granted further review.
II. Standard of Review.
“When the applicant’s claims are of a constitutional nature, we will
conduct a de novo review.” Desimone v. State, 803 N.W.2d 97, 102 (Iowa
omitted). Since TeKippe’s conviction occurred after Aguilera’s trial, it cannot be
considered newly discovered evidence.
Accordingly, we review Brady-due-process-violation claims de
The prosecution’s affirmative duty to disclose evidence favorable to
a defendant can trace its origins to early twentieth century strictures
against misrepresentation and is, of course, most prominently associated
with the Supreme Court’s decision in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83
S. Ct. 1194, 10 L. Ed. 2d 215 (1963). Brady held “that the suppression
by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request
violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to
punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the
prosecution.” 373 U.S. at 87, 83 S. Ct. at 1196–97, 10 L. Ed. 2d at 218;
see also Cornell v. State, 430 N.W.2d 384, 385 (Iowa 1988). “To establish
a Brady violation has occurred, [the defendant] must prove by a
preponderance of the evidence ‘(1) the prosecution suppressed evidence;
(2) the evidence was favorable to the defendant; and (3) the evidence was
material to the issue of guilt.’ ” Desimone, 803 N.W.2d at 103 (quoting
Harrington v. State, 659 N.W.2d 509, 516 (Iowa 2003)); see also Cornell,
430 N.W.2d at 385.
Aguilera claims the State’s failure to disclose
statements the DCI took from six individuals constitutes Brady
violations. The statements that form the basis of this appeal came from
Lorenzo Lopez, Salvador Guido, Roberto Reyes, Graciela Lucio, Ramae
Shuver, and Zeidy Aguilera. Lopez, Guido, Reyes, and Lucio were all at
the party where the shooting occurred. Zeidy was at the residence she
shared with Garcia at the time of the shooting. Shuver was not present,
but worked with Garcia and Aguilera at Sparboe Farms. Shuver told the
DCI she suspected Aguilera was extorting money from undocumented
Suppression of Evidence.
Nondisclosure of evidence is the
touchstone of suppression. Desimone, 803 N.W.2d at 103. To establish
that the evidence was suppressed, Aguilera does not need to show any
“bad faith” on the part of the State. Id. The State has a duty to disclose
exculpatory evidence regardless of whether the accused requests it. Id.;
see also Harrington, 659 N.W.2d at 522. The test for suppression does
not require that an individual prosecutor knows of the information;
rather, a prosecutor has a responsibility “to learn of any favorable
evidence known to . . . others acting on the government’s behalf in the
case, including the police.”
quotation marks omitted).
Harrington, 659 N.W.2d at 522 (internal
Regarding the suppression of evidence, we
have stated, “Exculpatory evidence is not ‘suppressed’ if the defendant
either knew or should have known of the essential facts permitting him
to take advantage of the evidence.” Cornell, 430 N.W.2d at 385. Before
we will say that defense counsel lacked diligence or should have known
of the exculpatory evidence, “defense counsel must be aware of the
potentially exculpatory nature of the evidence and its existence.”
Desimone, 803 N.W.2d at 103.
We have noted that access to police
reports, as opposed to mere knowledge of the reports, provides essential
facts and a “range and detail of information necessary to fully
understand the implications of the police investigation” that oral
disclosure of the reports cannot provide. Harrington, 659 N.W.2d at 522–
23 (internal quotation marks omitted).
The district court determined the entire DCI file was suppressed.
The court noted that Aguilera’s attorney impeached Lopez and Guido at
trial with inconsistent statements made during their depositions. It was
inconceivable that he would not use the prior inconsistent DCI
statements as well, if he had access to them. The court also noted that
Aguilera’s first attorney testified he never received the DCI file, an
inspection of the public defender’s file did not reveal any such DCI file,
and the State could not offer any document showing the DCI file had
been delivered to Aguilera.
On appeal, the only dispute regarding the suppression issue arises
out of Guido’s statements. Guido’s allegedly suppressed statements were
taken by DCI agent William Basler on August 19 and 21, 1996, days
after the shooting. In these statements, Guido said he was at his house
most of the day, cooking meat in preparation for the party he and his
roommates were hosting.
On August 19, Guido stated he was inside
when he heard the gunshot; that he only went outside after the gunshot;
that he did not see anyone with a gun that evening; and that when he
went outside after he heard the shot, he saw Garcia laying on the
On August 21, Guido gave another statement to Basler.
statement differed from the statement made two days earlier.
August 21 statement, as well as during his deposition and at trial, Guido
claimed to have been outside when he heard the sound of a bottle or can
hitting something and that noise caused him to look in the direction of
Aguilera and Garcia.
He then claimed he saw Aguilera and Garcia
arguing. When Garcia got out of the Blazer, Guido claimed Aguilera drew
a gun from his back and shot Garcia when the two were approximately
six feet apart. According to Guido, a struggle for the gun then ensued
and Garcia fell to the ground.
Aguilera deposed Basler on October 23. At his deposition, Basler
stated that Guido said he was inside the house at the time of the
shooting and that he went outside when he heard the shot. According to
Basler’s deposition, Guido also said he never saw a gun. Basler did not
disclose Guido’s statement that all his roommates, which would include
Lorenzo Lopez, were inside the house watching a movie at the time of the
The court of appeals found that the portion of Guido’s August 19
statement in which he said that he was inside the house at the time of
the shooting, that he never saw the shooting, and that he never saw a
gun were not suppressed because detailed disclosure of the statement
was made during Basler’s deposition. We disagree. Basler’s deposition
testimony disclosed the fact that, at one point, Guido denied seeing the
shooting and placed himself inside the house, as opposed to being
outside the house and witnessing the shooting, as Guido testified to at
trial. However, his testimony did not include the date that the statement
was made, the fact that Guido made a contradictory statement two days
later, or the fact that Guido placed Lopez, the only other eyewitness in
this case, inside the house.
Basler’s deposition did not provide “the essential facts permitting
[the defendant] to take advantage of the evidence.” Cornell, 430 N.W.2d
385. Aguilera did not receive the DCI file containing Guido’s statement,
even though the district court ordered the prosecution to turn over the
entire file. Aguilera only received a fraction of the information contained
in the DCI file, and the portion of the statement that Aguilera did receive
was filtered through the DCI agent’s memory and perception. We have
noted the importance of receiving the actual police report itself, as
opposed to mere oral disclosure of information contained in the reports,
stating, “Only access to the documents themselves would have provided
the range and detail of information necessary to fully understand the
implications of the police investigation.” Harrington, 659 N.W.2d at 523
(internal quotation marks omitted). The prosecution failed to turn over
the entire DCI file. Therefore, all of the witness statements contained in
that file were suppressed.
B. Favorability. We now move to the second step of the Brady
analysis: Whether the evidence was favorable to the accused. Desimone,
803 N.W.2d at 105.
The district court found, and the State does not
dispute, that all of the statements listed above were exculpatory.
agree. “ ‘Impeachment evidence . . . as well as exculpatory evidence, falls
within the Brady rule.’ ” Id. (quoting United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S.
667, 676, 105 S. Ct. 3375, 3380, 87 L. Ed. 2d 481, 490 (1985)). Since all
of the statements contained in the file could be used to either impeach a
witness or support alternate interpretations of events, these statements
were all clearly exculpatory.
Materiality. For a violation of due process, the suppressed,
favorable evidence must be “material” to the issue of guilt.
determine materiality, we consider the totality of the circumstances to
determine whether there is a reasonable probability that, if the evidence
had been disclosed, the result of the proceeding would have been
different. Harrington, 659 N.W.2d at 523–24. We have repeatedly stated:
“[T]he materiality inquiry is not just a matter of determining
whether, after discounting the inculpatory evidence in light
of the undisclosed evidence, the remaining evidence is
sufficient to support the jury’s conclusions. Rather, the
question is whether ‘the favorable evidence could reasonably
be taken to put the whole case in such a different light as to
undermine confidence in the verdict.’ ”
Id. at 523 (quoting Strickler v. Greene, 527 U.S. 263, 290, 119 S. Ct.
1936, 1952, 144 L. Ed. 2d 286, 307 (1999) (citation omitted)); see also
Desimone, 803 N.W.2d at 105. However, the defendant does not need to
prove disclosure of the evidence certainly would have resulted in his
acquittal, only that there is a “reasonable probability” that it would have
changed the outcome of the trial.
Harrington, 659 N.W.2d at 523
(internal quotation marks omitted). However, a “reasonable possibility”
of a different outcome would be insufficient to require reversal.
Desimone, 803 N.W.2d at 105.
Withholding impeachment evidence can form the basis of a Brady
violation, but when a witness’s testimony has been otherwise impeached
with prior inconsistent statements, we are less likely to find the
impeaching statements would have impacted the outcome of the trial.
Cornell, 430 N.W.2d 386. Also, the inconsistencies used to impeach a
witness must involve “substantive evidence” of the defendant’s guilt or
innocence. State v. Veal, 564 N.W.2d 797, 810 (Iowa 1997), overruled in
part on other grounds by State v. Hallum, 585 N.W.2d 249, 253 (Iowa
1998), cert. granted, judgment vacated on other grounds, 521 U.S. 1001,
119 S. Ct. 2335, 144 L. Ed. 2d 233 (1999). However, when considering
whether there is a reasonable probability the outcome would be different,
we are not limited to merely evaluating the weight of evidence. We can
also “assess the possible effects nondisclosure had on trial preparation
and strategy.” Desimone, 803 N.W.2d at 105; see also Harrington, 659
N.W.2d at 524 (citing the importance of defense counsel’s ability to “zero
in” on certain witnesses when forming alternative theories of the crime).
When suppressed evidence leads to a new trial “dynamic,” we have found
the evidence to be material. Desimone, 803 N.W.2d at 106.
An additional aspect of materiality that needs to be stressed under
the facts of this case is that suppressed evidence is to be considered
collectively, not item by item. Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419, 436–37,
115 S. Ct. 1555, 1567, 131 L. Ed. 2d 490, 507 (1995).
definition of . . . materiality in terms of the cumulative effect of
suppression must accordingly be seen as leaving the government with a
degree of discretion, it must also be understood as imposing a
corresponding burden.” Id. at 437, 115 S. Ct. at 1567, 131 L. Ed. 2d at
Lopez and Guido were the only eyewitnesses who testified about
what happened between Garcia and Aguilera when the shot was fired.
Their stories differed in one key respect: Guido said Garcia and Aguilera
were a few feet apart when the gun went off and Lopez said they were
struggling when the gun went off. In other words, if the jury believed
Guido, then an accidental shooting would have been less likely because
the shot was fired before the two began to struggle. If the jury believed
Lopez, then the shot may have been fired after a struggle, which makes
an accidental shooting far more likely. In its ruling on the application for
postconviction relief, the district court stated, “[T]here is no claim of
accident” by Aguilera. In Aguilera’s original appeal of his conviction in
1998, the court of appeals found otherwise, explicitly stating, “We find
Aguilera’s defense was based on accidental shooting and not selfdefense.” We agree with the court of appeals. In his opening statement
at trial, Aguilera’s attorney claimed the shooting was accidental. When
he cross-examined Guido and Lopez, he asked how far apart Garcia and
Aguilera were when the gun went off and whether the two were wrestling
before or after the shot was fired.
The credibility of both Lopez and
Guido was a key issue at trial, which increases the likelihood that any
impeachment evidence contained in the DCI file might have changed the
outcome of the trial, or our confidence in the trial, and would therefore
The suppressed statements of Guido, Lopez, and Reyes would all
serve to undermine the trial testimony of Lopez and Guido.
August 19 statement, Guido said that he was inside the house when the
shooting occurred; that he did not see a gun; and that his roommates,
which would include Lopez, were inside watching a movie when the
In his August 21 statement, Guido placed himself
outside, in front of the garage by the grill, when he heard the shot. He
then looked toward the shot and saw Garcia lying on the ground. At his
deposition, Guido stated he heard the noise of metal hitting metal, so he
looked towards Garcia, who was sitting in his car. At that point, he saw
Garcia and Aguilera arguing. Garcia then exited his car. Guido claimed
Aguilera pulled a gun out of his waistband and shot Garcia. After the
shot was fired, Garcia grabbed Aguilera’s arms and the two briefly fought
over the gun until Garcia collapsed. Guido’s trial testimony substantially
mirrored his deposition.
Aguilera’s attorney would have been able to cross-examine Guido
far more effectively if he had Guido’s August 19 and 21 statements to the
DCI. Not only are the two statements inconsistent with his deposition
and trial testimony, they are inconsistent with each other. Through the
course of these statements, Guido’s claims progress from him having
been inside and not having seen or heard anything prior to the gunshot,
to him being outside and hearing a bottle or can hit something before the
shot, and finally to actually seeing Aguilera fire the shot that killed
Garcia. The statements Guido made to the DCI would be inadmissible
hearsay if they were offered to prove what Guido said on August 19 and
21 was actually true.
Iowa R. Evid. 5.801(c), 5.802.
statements would have been admissible to impeach Guido. Iowa R. Evid.
5.613. If the prosecution had provided Aguilera with these documents,
he would have been allowed to present them to Guido at trial and to ask
Guido to explain the drastic inconsistencies between his initial
statements given to the police in the few days immediately following the
shooting and his deposition and trial testimony, which occurred several
months later. This dramatic display would have been far more effective
than pointing out minor inconsistencies between Guido’s deposition and
his trial testimony, which was the only impeaching evidence available to
Aguilera at trial. When a case turns on the credibility of a witness, this
type of suppressed impeachment evidence is certainly material.
Guido’s testimony contains other inconsistencies that would make
the jury less likely to believe him. He testified that Garcia and Aguilera
were two meters apart when the gun went off.
However, the State’s
weapons expert testified that the gun was no more than six inches from
Garcia’s chest when it went off. Lopez testified that Garcia and Aguilera
were fighting over the gun when it went off, not afterwards.
testimony from the State’s expert is consistent with Lopez’s account, but
inconsistent with Guido’s.
The suppressed DCI file also contained a statement from Graciela
Lucio. Lucio did not testify, she was never deposed, and her identity was
never revealed to Aguilera.
Lucio stated she heard someone shout
“they’re fighting” before she heard a gunshot and saw a flash of light
from the gun. While someone shouting that people are fighting does not
necessarily mean that the two people are currently engaged in a close
struggle, it does lend support to Lopez’s description of the events.
Moreover, if Lucio heard the shout that people were fighting, and
subsequently heard the shot, one imagines that others at the scene
would have as well.
Without her statement, or even knowledge of its
existence, Aguilera had no way of knowing that someone had shouted
about a fight prior to the gun going off, and he was denied the ability to
ask Lucio questions about the event. The limitations of Aguilera’s access
to this witness and her statement weigh in favor of finding the
suppression of the DCI file to be material.
Ramae Shuver also gave a statement to the DCI that was not
turned over. 4
She told DCI that she believed Aguilera was extorting
money from other Hispanics at work. She claimed she found a list on
Aguilera’s desk and that she asked another coworker if everyone on that
list had to pay Aguilera $200 per month.
If it turned out that the
defendant was extorting his co-workers, many of whom attended the
party where the shooting occurred, this may certainly have changed
Aguilera’s trial strategy, as well as the dynamic of the trial. Desimone,
803 N.W.2d at 105–06; Harrington, 659 N.W.2d at 523. In his deposition
prior to the hearing on the application for postconviction relief, Aguilera’s
trial counsel stated that he did not recall hearing of any extortion plans
involving Aguilera. Regarding extortion schemes and migrant workers,
Aguilera’s trial counsel stated that he had an “understating of how
generally it works[.] . . . [I]f I’m working and you want to work at the
same place that I work, if I get you a job there, you owe me money. And
basically, you have to pay me a portion of your earnings for as long as
you work there.”
Aguilera’s attorney knew enough about this practice
that, if he had been given Shuver’s statement, Aguilera’s attorney would
have been able to fully investigate the allegations.
While no one can be certain what that investigation would have
uncovered, Shuver’s statement may have changed Aguilera’s strategy at
4The district court found Shuver’s statement was suppressed. The State has not
appealed this finding, nor has it argued Shuver’s statement was not suppressed under
Brady. Since “[e]xculpatory evidence is not ‘suppressed’ if the defendant either knew or
should have known of the essential facts permitting him to take advantage of the
evidence,” the State could have argued Shuver’s statement was not suppressed.
Cornell, 430 N.W.2d at 385. The State has not made this argument, and therefore, for
purposes of this case, we will consider Shuver’s statement suppressed and only
consider the statement’s cumulative impact on materiality.
trial. It may have uncovered a widespread bias against Aguilera on the
part of the employees at Sparboe, several of whom attended the party
and testified against him. Again, the test is not whether the evidence, in
and of itself, is material, but whether the evidence would change the
defendant’s trial strategy and lead to a new dynamic at trial. Desimone,
803 N.W.2d at 105–06; Harrington, 659 N.W.2d at 523.
The test for
materiality is whether that new strategy gives us confidence that there is
a reasonable probability the outcome of the trial might have been
different if the favorable material had been made available to the defense
in a timely manner.
Desimone, 803 N.W.2d at 105.
statement, in isolation, may not have been material, when viewed in
connection with the other statements the State failed to turn over, it
supports a finding of materiality.
Lopez also gave inconsistent statements to the DCI investigator
that were suppressed.
In Lopez’s August 19 statement, he placed
himself inside the house at the time of the shooting and claimed that he
not see or hear anything.
This is consistent with Guido’s August 19
On August 22, Lopez gave another statement, this time
claiming that he was talking to Garcia at Garcia’s car when Aguilera
approached and Garcia and Aguilera began to argue. Once the arguing
started, Lopez began to back away. Aguilera then took two steps back
and pulled out a gun. Garcia then exited the car and grabbed Aguilera’s
arm, which caused the gun to turn towards Lopez. At that point, Lopez
As he was turning away, he heard the shot.
turned back, he saw Aguilera running away. Lopez’s deposition and his
trial testimony are substantially similar to his August 22 statement.
In Guido’s August 21 statement to the DCI, he continues to
maintain that Lopez was in the house before the shot was fired. After
further questioning, Guido stated that he thought he saw Lopez in the
house after the shot, but that he was not sure because he was frightened
by the shooting. At that time, Guido also stated that Lopez told him that
he was standing by Garcia’s car, that he left when Aguilera approached,
and that he heard the shot after he returned to the house.
Roberto Reyes was interviewed on August 21. He stated that he
was watching television with Lopez at the party and that he saw Lopez in
the kitchen with Guido immediately after the shooting. He also stated
that he and another person were the only two people in the house and
that Lopez was not in the house. Reyes did not testify at trial, and Basler
did not mention interviewing Reyes at his October 23 deposition. There
is no evidence Aguilera knew Reyes existed or that he might have
information regarding the incident. While the State points to aspects of
Reyes’s statement that are inconsistent and confusing as to where
exactly he believed Lopez was at that time of the shooting, that confusion
is not dispositive of whether the suppression of his statement was
material. If Aguilera had been provided with Reyes’s statement, or even
been made aware of his existence, he could have deposed him and
clarified exactly where Reyes believed Lopez was at the time of the
The suppressed DCI file contains many statements that make an
accidental shooting far more likely. Lopez claimed that he was outside
talking to Garcia when Aguilera approached.
Aguilera pulled out a gun.
The two argued, and
During a struggle over the gun, that was
described in great detail in Lopez’s statement to the DCI, the gun went
His second statement is similar to his deposition and his trial
Lucio’s statement also supports the theory that the fight
began before the gun went off. While the DCI file bolsters Lopez’s story,
it substantially weakens Guido’s.
It contains two statements that are
inconsistent with each other and that differ greatly from his deposition
and trial testimony. Shuver’s statement also creates the possibility that
Guido may have had a motive to implicate Aguilera.
Suppressed evidence is material if it creates a “reasonable
probability that if the evidence had been disclosed, the result of the
proceeding would have been different.” Desimone, 803 N.W.2d at 105. It
is impossible to know with certainty what role the statements of Shuver,
Unfortunately, due to the State’s refusal to turn the DCI file over, even
after a court order was issued requiring the State to release the file,
Aguilera was never able to investigate any of these statements, and
therefore much of their value is speculative. However, these statements,
along with those of Guido and Lopez, would have provided ample
impeachment evidence that Aguilera could have used to bolster his claim
of an accidental shooting. In this case, the State’s failure to turn over
clearly exculpatory material handicapped not only the defendant, but
also the trier of fact. If this evidence had been placed in front of the jury,
there is a reasonable probability that at least one juror would have
concluded the gun went off by accident, as opposed to an intentional
shooting. This type of obstruction of the fact-finding process cannot be
confidence in the conclusion reached by the jury. After reviewing these
statements, we cannot be confident in the result of this trial.
Harrington, 659 N.W.2d at 525.
We conclude there is a reasonable
probability that had these statements been turned over to the defense,
the outcome of the trial would have been different.
statements were material.
The DCI file and
Because we determine that the suppressed, favorable statements
which were not turned over by the State had a reasonable probability of
impacting the outcome of the trial, we find a Brady violation occurred in
this case and Aguilera’s due process rights were violated. We vacate the
court of appeals decision, reverse the district court’s ruling denying
Aguilera’s application for postconviction relief, and remand the case to
the district court.
DECISION OF THE COURT OF APPEALS VACATED; JUDGMENT
OF THE DISTRICT COURT REVERSED, AND CASE REMANDED.
All justices concur except Mansfield, J., who takes no part.