SCOTUS Hears Equitable Tolling Case

The Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether "gross negligence" by a state-appointed defense attorney in a death penalty case provides a basis for extending the time to file a federal habeas challenge, in a case where the habeas plea was filed late despite repeated instructions from the client.Mr. Holland, a prisoner on Florida's death row, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in a Florida Federal District Court. The district court dismissed the petition as untimely because it was filed beyond the one-year statute of limitations period. On appeal, Holland argued that he was entitled to equitable tolling of the limitations period for filing his federal habeas petition because of egregious conduct by his counsel during his post-conviction proceedings.Last August, a three-judge panel on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals released a per curiam opinion affirming the district court's rejection of an extension to file the challenge. Noting: "Petitioner has offered no reason to believe an evidentiary hearing would help him demonstrate the required extraordinary circumstances to warrant equitable tolling," the appeals court held that: “"no allegation of lawyer negligence or of failure to meet a lawyer's standard of care -- in the absence of an allegation and proof of bad faith, dishonesty, divided loyalty, mental impairment, or so forth on the lawyer's part -- can rise to egregious attorney misconduct that would entitle the Petitioner to equitable tolling" under the AEDPA.”On Oct. 13, the Supreme Court agreed to review the case. Oral arguments are expected to be scheduled for some time early next year . The questions presented include: Whether "gross negligence" by a state-appointed defense attorney in a death penalty case provides a basis for extending the time to file a federal habeas challenge, in a case where the habeas plea was filed late despite repeated instructions from the client. Holland v Florida, Supreme Court No. 09-5327. To read the cert petition, click here. (Updated November 4th).


New Detainee Case Hearing for SCOTUS

SCOTUS Blog notes that Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., on Friday cleared the way for the filing in November of a new Guantanamo Bay detainee case, further testing the power of federal judges to weigh or limit transfers of prisoners from that U.S. military prison. The new case is now due to be filed by Nov. 10 in the case of Kiyemba v. Obama — the same title, though with somewhat different issues, as the case the Court on Oct. 20 agreed to hear in docket 08-1234.These cases will explore the limits of last year’s ruling in Boumediene v. Bush, which confirmed a constitutional right for Guantanamo prisoners to challenge their continued detention.

Arizona Considering Privating Most of Its Prisons

Saturday’s New York Times reports that Arizona is considering privatizing nine of its ten prisons. While states have privatized some of its prisons, this will be the first time that a state considers such a wide spread attempt at privatization.

Prosecutors Go After Northwestern Innocence Project

Sunday’s New York Times has an interesting article about state prosecutors trying to turn the tables on the Medill Innocence Project at Northwestern University. The students of that project provided investigation that is being used in a motion for new trial in the Cook County Circuit Court pertaining to the thirty year murder conviction of Anthony McKinney. The prosecution were provided the affidavits, video tapes of the statements of the witnesses, and their written statements. The state, however, wanted more. They have subpoenaed all the students e-mails, notes, and internal memorandums.

Padilla v Kentucky: It is Looking Good!

With the execution of Troy Davis looming in Georgia, he found a strange ally in former Republican Representative Robert Barr. In an Op-Ed piece in today’s New York Times, Mr. Barr stated that federal courts have abdicated too much of their sovereignty in refusing to consider this claim.

There is compelling evidence that death row inmate Troy Davis may be innocent, but federal and state courts have consistently refused to hear the evidence. Mr. Davis has exhausted all conventionlal challenges to his conviction, Mr. Davis has resorted to an original writ of habeas corpus in the United States Supreme Court. If that petition fails, Mr. Davis will be executed. In refusing to hear Mr. Davis’s appeals, courts have relied on provisions contained in the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act (“AEDPA”) and held that they are barred from hearing the petition. Mr. Barr argues that the courts have misread the law. For more information on Mr. Davis’s case, please see his website which contains many of the opinions and a nice time line of the case.

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Should the US Supreme Court Reconsider Appodoca v Oregon?

In 1972, the United States Supreme Court stated that twelve person juries in state criminal trials could reach a non-unanimous vote, (e.g. 10-2 for conviction or acquittal). In Bowen v Oregon, the Petitioner is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its prior ruling based on later court decisions holding the Sixth Amendment in line with the original purpose. Mr. Bowen has enlisted some powerful allies and the New York Times thinks Mr. Bowen has a chance. Stay tuned!