CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

SCOTUS Grants Cert. In Two More Crim Cases, Including Important DNA Case


House v. Bell, 04-8990:

Summary of Ruling Below: In capital case in which circumstantial evidence was clearly sufficient to support habeas corpus petitioner's murder conviction, petitioner has not made sufficient showing of actual innocence that would permit him to revive his procedurally defaulted claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, because, although petitioner made colorable claim of actual innocence, his evidence, which raised questions about reliability of portions of trial testimony and manner in which physical evidence was handled or analyzed, did not satisfy test of Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298 (1995), which requires petitioner to show that it is more likely than not that no reasonable jury would have convicted him in light of his new evidence.

Question(s) Presented: (1) Did majority below err in applying this court's decision in Schlup v. Delo to hold that petitioner's compelling new evidence, though presenting at very least colorable claim of actual innocence, was as matter of law insufficient to excuse his failure to present that evidence before state courts merely because he had failed to negate each and every item of circumstantial evidence that had been offered against him at original trial? (2) What constitutes "truly persuasive showing of actual innocence" pursuant to Herrera v. Collins, 503 U.S. 390 (1993), sufficient to warrant freestanding habeas relief?

House v. Bell raises important issues about the how new DNA evidence of innocence impacts an inmates right to a new trial.  CNN discussion here.

Rice v. Collins, 04-52

Ruling Below: (9th Cir., 365 F.3d 667) 

Summary of Ruling Below: State court's determination that prosecutor did not exercise two peremptory strikes in racially discriminatory manner, without addressing substantial indications that prosecutor's race-neutral explanation for each strike was pretext for racially motivated discrimination, was objectively unreasonable determination of facts in light of evidence presented as well as objectively unreasonable application of clearly established federal law, and thus state court committed constitutional error that warrants grant of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

Question(s) Presented: Does 28 U.S.C. § 2254 allow federal habeas corpus court to reject presumption of correctness for state factfinding, and condemn state-court adjudication as unreasonable determination of facts, when rational factfinder could have determined facts as did state court?

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