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United States v. Agurs

United States Supreme Court
427 U.S. 97, 96 S.Ct. 2392, 49 L.Ed.2d 342 (1976)



Agurs (defendant) and James Sewell went to a motel to engage in sexual intercourse. A short time after entering the room, motel employees heard Agurs screaming for help. After forcing their way into the room, the motel employees saw Sewell on top of Agurs struggling for possession of a large bowie knife that Agurs was holding. Sewell was transported to a hospital where he later died from several stab wounds. Agurs was indicted for second-degree murder. At trial, evidence showed that after engaging in sexual intercourse, Sewell briefly left the room. Upon his return, Sewell believed that Agurs had taken approximately $360 from his pants’ pocket. Agurs claimed that Sewell attacked her and she attempted to fight him off by stabbing him in self-defense. Agurs was convicted. Three months later, Agurs’ defense counsel filed a motion for a new trial claiming the prosecutor failed to disclose key evidence related to Sewell’s criminal record and violent tendencies. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the undisclosed information required a new trial because the jury may have returned a different verdict had the information been admitted. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Stevens, J.)

Dissent (Marshall, J.)

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