Schneyder v. Smith, No. 10-2367 (3d Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
An essential witness in a rape, robbery, murder prosecution refused to testify because of threats to her family and went as far as pulling a knife on a police officer. She evaded capture during two trials and, after a second conviction was overturned, was jailed as a material witness. A February 2 trial date was continued until May 25; the witness was incarcerated for 54 days before being released. The prosecution did not notify the judge who had ordered the incarceration of the continuance and, when the witness's father died, allowed her only a short visit to the funeral home, in handcuffs. Following a remand, the district court denied the prosecutor qualified immunity with respect to claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Third Circuit affirmed. The incarceration was a seizure, for Fourth Amendment purposes, and a reasonable jury could find the duration unreasonable. As the sole government official in possession of the relevant information, the prosecutor had a duty of disclosure that was neither discretionary nor advocative, but was a purely administrative act, not entitled to the shield of immunity,
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on August 5, 2011.