Taking a look around the other circuits today, I came across a really interesting habeas opinion out of the Sixth Circuit. Actually, the opinion itself wasn't too interesting; it was the concurring opinion that got my attention.
The name of the case is Pinchon v. Myers; it's available here. Petitioner, who was 17-years-old at the time of the murder, was sentenced to life in prison. The main issue in the case is whether petitioner's motion to amend his petition to add an IAC claim was within the one-year statute of limitation. The court concludes that it was not.
Although the concurring judge was constrained to agree with the outcome, the judge wrote separately to "express my distress over the harsh edges of AEDPA and our habeas jurisprudence, displayed so dramatically in this case."
After discussing the evidence that showed that petitioner was "mildly mentally retarded," the judge reviewed petitioner's post-judgment actions and found that he had acted diligently overall. Nevertheless, despite that diligence, the petition was out-of-time.
The judge believed that the harsh outcome in the case was unfair and did not further the goals of comity or finality. In his final paragraph, the judge unleashes a great rant against the unfairness of the result. Here's what he says:
It is disheartening and frustrating to acknowledge that the ability to pursue one’s constitutional rights—with a life prison sentence hanging in the balance—can turn on such minor distinctions and such a small, understandable mistake made by an incarcerated, mentally retarded, young man with no attorney. Indeed, although these doctrines are grounded in the valid policy interests of efficiency and finality, this decision does not satisfy these interests. Rather than avoiding repetitive, time-consuming litigation, the application of these doctrines has resulted in years of litigation on procedural issues rather than the substance of Pinchon’s claims. I believe that Pinchon’s petition unjustly has been lost in the “Byzantine morass of arbitrary, unnecessary, and unjustifiable impediments” present in our habeas system. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 759 (1990) (Blackmun, J., dissenting). I concur in the judgment only because my misgivings about the outcome of this case “do not . . . justify a refusal to respect precedents that remain a part of our law.” Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35, 87 (2008) (Stevens, J., concurring in the judgment).