This note argues that the Ninth Circuit's meaningful factual analysis in applying the materiality standard led to its reversal of Mr. Hayes's conviction. The Court's willingness to look beyond the Government's assertions and to take into account every way in which the prosecutor's duplicitous conduct might have affected the jury's verdict allowed it to reach a different decision than prior reviewing courts. Moreover, the Court did so while adhering to established Supreme Court precedent and remaining within the confines of modern federal habeas review. The Ninth Circuit's analysis under this standard can help prevent wrongful convictions by deterring prosecutorial misconduct and encouraging prosecutors to take care in using the bargained-for testimony of accomplice witnesses. Further, the Court's holding can lead to reversals of wrongful convictions by instructing other courts to engage in meaningful reviews of such claims. Part I of this note provides the background on the evolution of the materiality standard and its application in modern federal habeas review. Part II fully describes the facts, procedural history, and holdings in the Hayes case. Part III analyzes how the Ninth Circuit reached its conclusion to reverse Mr. Hayes's conviction through its application of the materiality standard. Further, this Part outlines how this depth of analysis can help reverse and prevent wrongful convictions caused by prosecutorial misconduct and false testimony. Part IV concludes that to preserve the integrity of the criminal justice system, state misconduct must not go unchecked, as it has been shown to lead to the convictions of innocent persons.
Taking a Closer Look at Prosecutorial Misconduct: The Ninth Circuit's Materiality Analysis in Hayes v. Brown and Its Implications for Wrongful Convictions, 37 Golden Gate U. L. Rev.