Turner v. United States, s. 15–1503

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustice BREYER delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation198 L.Ed.2d 443,137 S.Ct. 1885
Parties Charles S. TURNER, et al., Petitioners v. UNITED STATES. Russell L. Overton, Petitioner v. United States.
Docket Number15–1504.,Nos. 15–1503,s. 15–1503
Decision Date22 June 2017

137 S.Ct. 1885
198 L.Ed.2d 443

Charles S. TURNER, et al., Petitioners

Russell L. Overton, Petitioner
United States.

Nos. 15–1503

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued March 29, 2017.
Decided June 22, 2017.

John S. Williams, Washington, DC, for Petitioner in No. 15–1503.

137 S.Ct. 1888

Deanna M. Rice, Washington, DC, for Petitioner in No. 15–1504.

Michael R. Dreeben, Washington, DC, for Respondent.

Shawn Armbrust, Mid–Atlantic Innocence Project, The George Washington University Law School, Washington, DC, for Petitioner Christopher D. Turner.

Robert M. Cary, Kannon K. Shanmugam, John S. Williams, Barrett J. Anderson, Eden Schiffmann, Kristin Saetveit, Williams & Connolly LLP, Washington, DC, for Petitioner Clifton E. Yarborough.

Barry J. Pollack, Miller & Chevalier Chartered, Washington, DC, for Petitioner Christopher D. Turner.

Veronice A. Holt, Washington, DC, for Petitioner Levy Rouse.

Jenifer Wicks, Law Offices of Jenifer Wicks, Washington, DC, for Petitioner Charles S. Turner.

Donald P. Salzman, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, Washington, DC, for Petitioner Kelvin Smith.

Cory Lee Carlyle, Washington, DC, for Petitioner Timothy Catlett.

Michael E. Antalics, Jonathan D. Hacker, Kevin D. Feder, Deanna M. Rice, Samantha M. Goldstein, Wyatt Fore, O'Melveny & Myers LLP, Washington, DC, for Petitioner.

Noel J. Francisco, Acting Solicitor General, Kenneth A. Blanco, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Michael R. Dreeben, Deputy Solicitor General, Ann O'Connell, Assistant to the Solicitor General, Elizabeth D. Collery, Attorney, Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Respondent.

Justice BREYER delivered the opinion of the Court.

In Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963), this Court held that the government violates the Constitution's Due Process Clause "if it withholds evidence that is favorable to the defense and material to the defendant's guilt or punishment." Smith v. Cain, 565 U.S. 73, 75, 132 S.Ct. 627, 181 L.Ed.2d 571 (2012) (emphasis added) (summarizing Brady holding). In 1985 the seven petitioners in these cases were tried together in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia for the kidnaping, armed robbery, and murder of Catherine Fuller. Long after petitioners' convictions became final, it emerged that the Government possessed certain evidence that it failed to disclose to the defense. The only question before us here is whether that withheld evidence was "material" under Brady . The D.C. Superior Court, after a 16–day evidentiary hearing, determined that the withheld evidence was not material. Catlett v. United States, Crim. No. 8617–FEL–84 etc. (Aug. 6, 2012), App. to Pet. for Cert. in No. 15–1503, pp. 84a, n. 4, 81a–131a. The D.C. Court of Appeals reviewed the record, reached the same conclusion, and affirmed the Superior Court. 116 A.3d 894 (2015). After reviewing the record, we reach the same conclusion as did the lower courts.


In these fact-intensive cases, we set out here only a basic description of the record facts along with our reasons for reaching our conclusion. We refer those who wish more detail to the opinions of the lower courts. App. to Pet. for Cert. in No. 15–1503, at 81a–131a; 116 A.3d 894.

137 S.Ct. 1889


The Trial

On March 22, 1985, a grand jury indicted the seven petitioners—Timothy Catlett, Russell Overton, Levy Rouse, Kelvin Smith, Charles Turner, Christopher Turner, and Clifton Yarborough—and several others for the kidnaping, robbery, and murder of Catherine Fuller. The evidence produced at their joint trial showed that on October 1, 1984, at around 4:30 p.m., Catherine Fuller left her home to go shopping. At around 6 p.m., William Freeman, a street vendor, found Fuller's body inside an alley garage between Eighth and Ninth Street N. E., just a few blocks from Fuller's home. See Appendix, infra (showing a map of the area in which the murder was committed). Fuller had been robbed, severely beaten, and sodomized with an object that caused extensive internal injuries.

The Government advanced the theory at trial that Fuller had been attacked in the alley by a large group of individuals, including petitioners; codefendants Steve Webb, Alfonso Harris, and Felicia Ruffin; as well as by Calvin Alston and Harry Bennett. The Government's evidentiary centerpiece consisted of testimony by Alston and Bennett, who confessed to participating in the offense and who cooperated with the Government in return for leniency. Although the testimony of Alston and Bennett diverged on minor details, it was consistent in stating that, and describing how, Fuller was attacked by a sizable group of individuals, including petitioners and they themselves.

Alston testified that at about 4:10 p.m. on the day of the murder, he arrived in a park located on H Street between Eighth and Ninth Streets. He said he found a group of people gathered there. It included petitioners Levy Rouse, Russell Overton, Christopher Turner, Charles Turner, Kelvin Smith, Clifton Yarborough, and Timothy Catlett, as well as several codefendants and others. Those in the group were talking and singing while Catlett was banging out a beat. Alston suggested "getting paid" by robbing someone. App. A467. Catlett, Overton, Rouse, Smith, Charles Turner, Christopher Turner, Yarborough, and several others agreed. Alston pointed at Catherine Fuller, who was walking on the other side of H Street near the corner of H and Eighth Streets. Those in the group said they were "game for getting paid." Id., at A471–A472. Alston, Rouse, Yarborough, and Charles Turner crossed H Street moving toward Eighth Street and followed Fuller down Eighth Street. The rest of the group crossed H Street and moved toward Ninth Street. When Alston's group approached Fuller, Charles Turner shoved her into an alley that runs between Eighth and Ninth Streets. Charles Turner, Rouse, and Alston began punching Fuller. They were soon joined by Christopher Turner, Smith, and others. All of them continued to hit and kick Fuller until she fell to the ground. Rouse and Charles Turner then carried Fuller to the center of the alley and dropped her in front of a garage located at the point where the alley joins another, perpendicular alley that runs toward I Street. Someone dragged Fuller into the garage. Alston, Rouse, Charles Turner, Overton, Yarborough, and Catlett followed. Others stood outside. Members of the group tore Fuller's clothes off and struggled over her change purse. Overton and Charles Turner then held Fuller's legs, and Alston, Catlett, Harris, and Yarborough stood around her while Rouse sodomized her with a foot-long pipe. Shortly after, the group dispersed and left the alley.

Harry Bennett's testimony was similar. Bennett also described a group attack. He said that he had gone to the H Street

137 S.Ct. 1890

park, where he saw Rouse, Overton, Christopher Turner, Smith, Catlett, and others gathered. Alston was talking to the group about "[g]etting paid" and said "let's go get that lady." Id., at A368–A370. At that point Alston, Rouse, Overton, and Webb crossed H Street and approached Fuller, while Catlett, Christopher Turner, Charles Turner, and Harris followed in a separate group. Bennett added that he himself went to the corner of Eighth and H Streets to watch for police. He then went into the alley and joined the group in kicking and beating Fuller. He testified that at least 12 people were there, with some beating Fuller and others watching or picking up her jewelry. Overton then dragged Fuller into the garage, and Bennett, Rouse, Christopher Turner, Charles Turner, Catlett, Smith, Harris, and Webb followed, as did some "girls." Id., at A402–A405. Alston and Steve Webb held Fuller's legs, and Rouse sodomized her with a pole. The group then dispersed from the garage and alley.

The Government presented several other witnesses who corroborated aspects of Alston's and Bennett's testimony, including the fact that Fuller was attacked by a group. Melvin Montgomery testified that he was in the H Street park on the afternoon of the murder. He saw Overton, Catlett, Rouse, Charles Turner, and others gathered there. The group was being noisy and singing a song about needing money. Somebody then said they were "going to get that one," and Montgomery saw that Overton was pointing to a woman standing on the corner of Eighth Street. Id., at 77–79. Overton, Catlett, Rouse, Charles Turner, and others crossed H Street. Some headed toward Eighth Street while others went toward Ninth Street. Montgomery did not follow them.

Maurice Thomas, then 14 years old, testified that he witnessed the attack itself. Thomas lived in the neighborhood and knew many of the defendants. As he was walking home, he glanced down the Eighth Street alley and saw a group surrounding Fuller. Thomas saw Catlett pat Fuller down and then hit her. He then saw everyone in the group join in hitting her. Thomas said he knew Catlett, Yarborough, Rouse, Charles Turner, Christopher Turner, and Smith and recognized them in the group. Thomas heard Fuller calling for help. He ran home where he found his aunt, who told him not to tell anyone what he saw. Later that day, Thomas saw Catlett at a...

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