Grant of New Trial Based on Brady Violation

Commonwealth v. Bagnall, 2019 WL 994169 (Pa. Super. 2019), allocatur granted Sept. 11, 2019, appeal docket 38 WAP 2019

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted allocatur to consider whether the Superior Court correctly affirmed the trial court’s refusal to grant a new trial based upon a serious Brady violation when the Defendant failed to demonstrate that the Commonwealth willingly withheld material evidence and that the evidence was in the exclusive control of the Commonwealth.

In 2017, a jury found Bagnall guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Bagnall filed a post-sentence motion in which he raised a Brady claim and claims of prosecutorial misconduct. After a hearing, Bagnall’s motion for a new trial was denied. The Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s finding that there was no Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) violation and Bagnall was not entitled to a new trial, reasoning that:

[Bagnall’s] Brady claim is without merit. First, [Bagnall] fails to establish that the Commonwealth was aware at trial that [Bagnall’s friend] had received a mitigated range sentence in the unrelated DUI case in exchange for his cooperation in this case…[Bagnall presents no evidence indicating that the [Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General] was aware of this agreement at the time of [Bagnall’s] trial.

Further, the trial court pointed out that there was “no documentation of an agreement” between [Bagnall’s friend] and the Mercer County District Attorney. [Citation omitted]. Also, at the hearing on [Bagnall’s] post-sentence motion, the Deputy Attorney General commented [quotation omitted]….On this record, [Bagnall] failed to demonstrate that the Commonwealth willingly withheld material evidence and that the evidence was in the exclusive control of the Commonwealth, and thus the trial court did not err in denying [Bagnall’s] Brady claim.

Slip Op. at 4-5.

The Supreme Court granted allocatur for the following issue, as stated by the petitioner:

The lower court erred in failing to grant a new trial based upon a serious Brady violation.

Allocatur grants present an excellent opportunity for your group or association to advance your legal and policy goals by filing an amicus brief. Participating as an amicus has proven to be an effective method of advising and influencing courts and often can involve far fewer resources than traditional lobbying.

If you are interested or would like more information, contact Kevin McKeon or Dennis Whitaker.