New York Perjury Conviction Demonstrates How Easily Some People Will Falsely Claim “Rape.”

Today’s New York Post contained a troubling story involving an a demonstrably false allegation of rape. Biurny Peguero Gonzalez repeatedly told police, prosecutors, the grand jury, and the petite jury that she had been raped by William McCaffrey. The jury believed Ms. Gonzalez and convicted the defendant. Mr.McCaffrey served more than four years in prison before exonerated by DNA test. At that point, Ms. Gonzalez coached on by her priest recanted her testimony and admitted she was never raped. What is sickening about the case is her underlying reason for the false allegation of sexual abuse. Ms. Gonzales was out with friends and temporarily left with the Mr. McCaffrey. Her friends were upset with her for leaving. In order to garner her sympathy, she invented the story that she was raped. At the original trial, she testified that she was 110% sure that the police have the right defendant and that he had raped her. Like many allegations of sexual abuse, the state had relied on her contemporaneous and distressed outburst over it to demonstrate that it was not a fabrication. While I recognize the danger of anecdotal evidence, the Gonzalez case demonstrates just how difficult it is to tell a genuine allegation of sexual abuse from a false one. It also paints a troubling picture about how easily some people won't make up such a damning lie. Click here to read the New York Post story.


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Michigan COA Rules that Vague Anonymous Tips Do Not Justify a Search

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that while searches can be justified based on anonymous tips, there has to be some showing of reliability. A bague anonymous tip alone is not enough for probable cause to search students car by assistant principal. People v Perrerault, Court of Appeals No. No. 288540.

Berghuis v Smith Argued Today in SCOTUS

Today, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Berghuis v Smith, Supreme Court No. 08-1402. At issue is the validity of a Kent County policy which resulted in under representation of African Americans on the jury. To hear a discussion of the case by Mr. Berghuis’s counsel and the attorney for the Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation (who filed a friend of the court brief defending the Warden), click here. The podcast is in mp3 format.

SCOTUS Reverses a Second IAC Ruling Based on AEDPA Deference

Today the United States Supreme Court reversed the second habeas corpus grant within a week. In Wood v. Allen, Supreme Court No. 08-9156, the Court held:

Even under Wood’s reading of §2254(d)(2), the state court’s conclusion that his counsel made a strategic decision not to pursue or present evidence of his mental deficiencies was not an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state-court proceedings. This Court need not reach the question whether §2254(e)(1) applies in every case presenting a challenge under §2254(d)(2), see Rice v. Collins, 546 U. S. 333, 339, because its view of the state court’s factual determination here does not depend on an interpretative difference regarding the relationship between those provisions. While “[t]he term ‘unreasonable’ is . . . difficult to define,” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U. S. 362, 410, it suffices to say that a state-court factual determination is not unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would have reached a different conclusion in the first instance. See Rice, supra, at 341–342. Here, the state-court record shows that all of Wood’s counsel read the Kirkland report. Trotter testified that Dozier told him that nothing in the report merited further investigation, a recollection supported by the attorneys’ contemporaneous letters; and Trotter told the sentencing judge that counsel did not intend to introduce the report to the jury. This evidence can fairly be read to support the Rule 32 court’s factual determination that counsel’s failure to pursue or present evidence of Wood’s mental deficiencies was not mere oversight or neglect but the result of a deliberate decision to focus on other defenses. Most of the contrary evidence Wood highlights—e.g., that Dozier and Ralph put the inexperienced Trotter in charge of the penalty phase proceedings—speaks not to whether counsel made a strategic decision, but to whether counsel’s judgment was reasonable, a question not before this Court. Any evidence plausibly inconsistent with the strategic decision finding does not suffice to show that the finding was unreasonable. Pp. 8–12. Because Wood’s argument that the state court unreasonably applied Strickland in rejecting his ineffective-assistance claim on the merits is not “fairly included” in the questions presented under this Court’s Rule 14.1(a), it will not be addressed here. Pp. 12–13.



The opinion was authored by Justice Sotomayer. Justice Stevens and Kennedy dissented. Read More...

SCOTUS Reverses Sixth Circuit Ruling on Ineffective Assistance Based on AEDPA Deference

On January 12, the Court issued its decision in Smith v. Spisak, No. 08-724. Justice Breyer wrote the opinion, which seven other Justices joined in full; Justice Stevens concurred in part and concurred in the judgment. Reversing the Sixth Circuit, the Court held that Ohio’s denial of Spisak’s underlying criminal appeal was reasonable. In the habeas corpus action, Spisak argued that (1) the jury instructions used at his trial unconstitutionally required the jury to consider mitigating factors only if the existence of each factor was unanimously found; and (2) his attorney was constitutionally ineffective, particularly during his closing argument – was not contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law. As previously noted on this blog, the Supreme Court has taken a number of Michigan habeas corpus cases involving AEDPA deference including Berghuis v Smith (to be argued in two days). Many have wondered whether the Supreme Court has taken these cases to sending a warning to the Sixth Circuit Court about the probing level of its rulings. Justice Breyer’s authorship of the Court’s opinion is a tad disconcerting. Stay Tuned.