WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the murder convictions of seven men in a brutal 1984 killing in the District of Columbia.
The justices, by a 6-2 vote, rejected the defendants’ claims that prosecutors withheld evidence that would have made a difference in the outcome of the men’s trial.
The case concerned the killing of 48-year-old Catherine Fuller. Her body was found in a garage about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the U.S. Capitol.
Eight men were convicted of the crime in 1985. One died in prison and one has since been released. The other six remain in prison.
In March, the justices heard competing accounts of the attack on Fuller. Police said the mother of six was attacked on a street, dragged into an alley, beaten and brutally sodomized with a pole in a group attack by members of a neighborhood gang. Her body was left in a garage.
Lawyers for the men said prosecutors did not turn over evidence implicating another man with a record of violent attacks against women as Fuller’s killer.
The justices all agreed that evidence was withheld and the Justice Department has conceded such evidence should be disclosed to defendants.
But Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the court that “the withheld evidence is too little, too weak, or too distant to undermine the group attack theory.”
In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that evidence “could have mattered.” Kagan said that the defendants could have presented a unified case that pointed to other man as a plausible suspect, if only prosecutors had turned over the evidence.
Instead, the defendants acted individually to avoid being convicted and “formed something of a circular firing squad,” Kagan wrote, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The Justice Department was involved in the case because it prosecutes violent crimes in the nation’s capital.
The cases are Turner v. U.S., 15-1503, and Overton v. U.S., 15-1504.
This story has been corrected to reflect that the court’s vote was 6-2, not 7-1.