Seventh Circuit Reiterates That Duty To Disclose Exculpatory Information Extends To Post-Conviction Proceedings

In a case styled Gordon Steidl vs. Steven Fermon, Diane Carper, Charles Brueggeman, et al., the Seventh Circuit rejected the defendants' qualified immunity defense. Plaintiff Gordon Steidl spent 17 years in prison for a double homicide in Paris, Illinois that he alleges he did not commit. Steidl was released from prison in 2004 after a federal district court granted his petition for habeas corpus. After his release, Steidl brought a civil rights lawsuit against Fermon, Carper, Brueggeman, who were Illinois State police officers, and others. These defendants asserted a qualified immunity defense arguing, in part, that the obligations to disclose under Brady do not extend beyond the original trial. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that argument, stating: "In our view, Brady, Ritchie, and the other cases in this line impose on the state an ongoing duty to disclose exculpatory information if, as Brady put it, that evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment and available for the trial. . . For evidence known to the state at the time of the trial, the duty to disclose extends throughout the legal proceedings that may affect either guilt or punishment, including post-conviction proceedings."