News Release ~ 06/17/1999

Evidence Withheld But Death Sentence Upheld

Washington, DC (June 17, 1999) --

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that a Virginia prosecutor withheld evidence in its prosecution of Tommy Strickler for capital murder in 1990. Strickler v. Greene, No. 98-5864. The court agreed with Strickler that the evidence improperly suppressed “might have produced a different result, either at the guilt or sentencing phases.” But the majority, placing the burden on the death row inmate, upheld the death sentence, finding that Strickler failed to establish a “reasonable probability” of a different result. Justices Souter and Kennedy disagreed, and would have vacated the death sentence. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) filed a friend of the court brief supporting Strickler.

NACDL President Larry Pozner issued the following statement from his office in Denver today:

“The Court is overlooking blatant prosecutorial misconduct, while yet another inmate is sent to his death. A great many death cases are pursued by politically-ambitious prosecutors who will bend or break Constitutional rules to get the result they want. When they are caught red-handed, the only just remedy is a new trial — the fair trial that was denied the first time.

“The Supreme Court looked at the evidence — including information favorable to the accused that had been hidden by the prosecutor. And then seven Justices found the defendant guilty of murder and sentenced him to death. Weighing the evidence and deliberating on the outcome is what we have juries for. And a Virginia death sentence must be unanimous — not with two dissenters. In a separate presumably fair trial, Strickler’s co-defendant was spared the death sentence. Tommy Strickler deserves the same opportunity.”

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 9,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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