Saw some interesting habeas cases from other places over the past few weeks. . .
Last week, the Third Circuit re-affirmed its prior decision to grant habeas relief to Mumia Abu-Jamal on the grounds that the instructions in his capital sentencing phase were unconstitutional. The court had originally granted habeas relief, but the Supreme Court vacated the decision in light of Smith v. Spisak. On remand, the Third Circuit stuck to its prior conclusion, saying that it was not inconsistent with Spisak.
Interesting habeas grant out of New Mexico a few weeks back in a case called Case v. Hatch, 2011 WL 1126335 (D.NM Mar. 28, 2011). Petitioner was able to establish under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(2)(B)(i) & (ii) that the facts underlying a Brady claim "if proven and viewed in light of the evidence as a whole, would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that, but for constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found the applicant guilty of the underlying offense." After concluding that this gateway standard had been met, the court then granted habeas relief on the Brady claim. This is a rare occurence. The facts are also really interesting, as it appears that law student investigators were the ones who unearthed the Brady material. You can download the decision here -- Download Case v. Hatch.
Briefly, here's an article about a habeas petition being filed in a high-profile murder case in Las Vegas from the '90's in which a grandmother was convicted of killing her husband.
It's a 2255 motion, but here's an article about a Fourth Circuit decision in the infamous Jeffrey MacDonald case, dramatized in the made for tv movie/Karl Malden vehicle "Fatal Vision." (of course, it was a book first, but I was a big fan of the movie, which also starred Eva Marie Saint and one of my all-time favorites, Gary Cole). I mention it, not just because of its pop culture relevance (and the actual innocence issues hovering over the case), but because the decision concerns whether the lower court properly applied the standards for evaluating a second or successive 2255 motion, which appear to be the exact same as those for evaluating a second or successive 2254 petition under 2244(b)(2) (analyzed above in Case v. Hatch). So, it does have relevance to 2254 cases. The Fourth Circuit decision is here.