469 U.S. 1090 (1984)

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U.S. Supreme Court

BROWN v. CHANEY , 469 U.S. 1090 (1984)

469 U.S. 1090

John N. BROWN, Warden
Larry Leon CHANEY
No. 84-169

Supreme Court of the United States

December 10, 1984

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

The motion of respondent for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is granted. The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.

Chief Justice BURGER, with whom Justice WHITE and Justice REHNQUIST join, dissenting.

In this case, the Court of Appeals vacated respondent's death sentence because it found that the state prosecutor withheld information that might have been material to the jury's sentencing decision. I would grant certiorari because I believe this case raises two important issues worthy of this Court's attention-how to distinguish a specific from a general request for exculpatory information, and how to determine whether withheld information was material to a sentencing decision.


Kendal Ashmore was a horse breeder. On the morning of March 17, 1977, Mrs. Ashmore and her assistant, Kathy Brown, went to meet a man who had expressed an interest in Morgan horses. Phillip Ashmore returned home from work that evening to find that his wife had not returned. He soon received a tele-

Page 469 U.S. 1090 , 1091

phone call in which the caller told him that he had abducted Mrs. Ashmore and Brown. The caller demanded $1/2 million in $100 bills, and warned Mr. Ashmore not to tell anyone about the call. Mr. Ashmore called his attorney, who contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The next day, Mr. Ashmore gathered the ransom money. The caller again telephoned, and told Mr. Ashmore to leave the money at a specified location at a local rodeo arena or his wife would be "dead." The caller also told Mr. Ashmore that the Ashmore truck was at 91st Street and Memorial Avenue in Tulsa. This call was traced to respondent's home phone.

Mr. Ashmore delivered the money to the predetermined spot at the rodeo grounds. Later that same day, he received a call telling him that the money had not been left in the proper place, that he should pick up the money, and try again the next day. The caller also told Mr. Ashmore that if he did not do exactly as he was told, "I'm going to send back a big hunk of your old lady in a box to you in the mail. . . ." This call was traced to a service station phone booth; the respondent's palm print was taken from the receiver handle on the telephone.

After the second call, the police set up surveillance of the respondent's home, which was about two miles from the rodeo grounds where the money was to be left. At about 3:20 a.m., the police arrested the respondent and searched his house. The bodies of Mrs. Ashmore and Brown were later found in a shallow grave on property rented by the respondent.

The respondent was indicted and tried for the murder of Mrs. Ashmore. Prior to trial, the respondent made several requests for exculpatory evidence. Only the following four were considered by the court below:

    "1. Statements of all persons who have been interviewed by . . . any . . . governmental agency in connection with the subject matter of this case . . . .

    "2. Stenographic recordings or transcriptions of any oral statement made by any person to . . . a member of any . . . governmental agency in connection with the subject matter of the case.

* * * * *

    "4. The names and addresses of all persons who may have some knowledge of the facts involved in the instant case.

* * * * * [469 U.S. 1090 , 1092]

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