OCTOBER TERM, 2008
NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
CONE v. BELL, WARDEN
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
No. 07–1114. Argued December 9, 2008—Decided April 28, 2009
After the State discredited petitioner Cone’s defense that he killed two
people while suffering from acute psychosis caused by drug addiction,
he was convicted and sentenced to death. The Tennessee Supreme
Court affirmed on direct appeal and the state courts denied postcon-
viction relief. Later, in a second petition for state postconviction re-
lief, Cone raised the claim that the State had violated Brady v. Mary-
land, 373 U. S. 83, by suppressing witness statements and police
reports that would have corroborated his insanity defense and bol-
stered his case in mitigation of the death penalty. The postconviction
court denied him a hearing on the ground that the Brady claim had
been previously determined, either on direct appeal or in earlier col-
lateral proceedings. The State Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed.
Cone then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in Federal Dis-
trict Court. That Court denied relief, holding the Brady claim proce-
durally barred because the state courts’ disposition rested on ade-
quate and independent state grounds: Cone had waived it by failing
to present his claim in state court. Even if he had not defaulted the
claim, ruled the court, it would fail on its merits because none of the
withheld evidence would have cast doubt on his guilt. The Sixth Cir-
cuit agreed with the latter conclusion, but considered itself barred
from reaching the cla