Prosecutors who withheld evidence in an Iowa murder case have caused a defendant’s conviction to be thrown out for a second time. Stanley Liggins was convicted of murder in the 1990 death of 9-year-old Jennifer Lewis for the second time in 1995, after his 1993 conviction was overturned by the Iowa Supreme Court. In early November, the Iowa Court of Appeals threw out the 1995 conviction too – this time on account of the state’s failure to disclose Brady material – saying, “the state did not fulfill its acknowledged obligation to disclose all exculpatory information.”
The Quad-City Times reports that a judge-ordered review of the state’s files during Liggins’ post-conviction appeal turned up 77 police reports that were hidden from Liggins at trial. However, these documents alone were not enough to convince the Iowa Court of Appeals that the state’s Brady violations impacted the jury’s verdict.
But further investigation on Liggins’ part revealed that a key witness for the state was also a paid police informant. The informant had been paid by police to provide information in several drug cases for more than two years between Mr. Liggins’ first and second trials. The Court of Appeals agreed that this new evidence, in conjunction with the withheld documents, undermined the integrity of Liggins’ conviction, writing:
“Whether in this case or another, they provided a powerful incentive for the witness to cooperate with the State. The witness stated as much, essentially telling officers that police protection was expected as a result of the work performed. The defense was entitled to impugn the witness’s credibility by apprising the jury of this incentive.”
The Court vacated Liggins’ conviction, who will face trial for a 3rd time if the Iowa Supreme Court does not reverse the Court of Appeals’ decision. The Iowa Attorney General’s office has said it plans to appeal the decision.