Back in September, in a case called Petronio v. Walsh, an EDNY judge granted habeas on the ground that the evidence was insufficient to support a depraved indifference conviction.
It was great opinion as it not only granted relief on that ground, but it granted relief even though the claim had been procedurally defaulted in state court. The judge concluded that petitioner had overcome the procedural default in two ways: one, he had shown cause because the depraved indifference argument "could not reasonably have been within counsel's contemplation at the time of the trial"; and two, there would be a miscarriage of justice for the federal courts to refuse to address the claim.
What was so great about this opinion is that in stood in direct contrast to a separate lower court opinion that had gone the other way on at least the miscarriage of justice issue and that case is now pending before the Second Circuit. This would have been a great companion case for that one.
But something else happened with the case. I recently read an article* in Newsday about the case and the paper reported that Petronio and the Nassau County DA's office reached a plea agreement under which Petronio would plead guilty to second-degree manslaughter. The guilty plea was entered on October 15. According to the article, the arrangement will make him almost immediately eligible for parole after serving ten years in prison.
*The article is subscription only, so no link. I was able to read it on Lexis/Nexis.
I checked the EDNY docket sheet for the case and the DA's office did file a notice of appeal. However, one of Petronio's attorneys has informed me that the DA's office does not plan on pursuing the appeal. And the Second Circuit's PACER system has no record of an appeal in that case. So it looks like the case is over.
While I would have liked the EDNY's great opinion to become the law of the circuit, I like the fact that the habeas grant resulted in a reduced plea for petitioner. It's a situation where habeas corpus provided a real world benefit to a habeas petitioner. Despite those recent calls for its abolition, this is a nice example of the continuing importance of the writ.