Professor Lain argues that the role of Brady v. Maryland in protecting the innocent from wrongful conviction is just as essential in the plea bargaining context as it is at trial, and that therefore even defendants who plead guilty should be entitled to Brady's protections. However, she concludes that Brady's application in the plea bargaining context is destined to provide only a shadow of the protection Brady provides at trial because of the materiality standard currently used to judge post-plea Brady claims. In making both points, she employs a model of the plea bargaining defendant's decision-making process, using modern choice theory to demonstrate Brady's effect on the accuracy of convictions based on a guilty plea. Throughout the discussion, she considers guilty pleas and convictions to be accurate so long as they are supported by some measure of factually guilty conduct.
Part I of this Article examines the judicial approaches currently used to extend Brady rights to defendants who plead guilty, concluding that the strongest doctrinal justification for applying Brady in the plea bargaining context looks to Brady's effect on the accuracy of a plea. Part II examines Brady's effect on the accuracy of guilty pleas, concluding that the disclosure of material, favorable information is necessary to prevent innocent defendants from falsely pleading guilty. Part III turns to Brady's materiality standard in the plea bargaining context, arguing that the showing currently required for post-plea Brady claims fails to realize Brady's accuracy-enhancing potential. Part IV concludes the analysis, underscoring the importance of protecting innocent defendants who plea bargain as well as those who contest their guilt at trial.
Corinna Barrett Lain, Accuracy Where It Matters: Brady v. Maryland in the Plea Bargaining Context, 80 Wash. U.L.Q 1