Some habeas-related stuff I have seen around the internets . . .
Earlier this week, the Ninth Circuit reversed a grant of habeas for a petitioner sentenced to death in a case called Leavitt v. Arave. A DJ had granted habeas relief based on IAC where counsel failed to present mitigating evidence that petitioner had a defect in his brain that could have caused his personality disorder. However, Judge Kozinski, writing for the majority, stated that "Given the exceptional depravity of this murder, it is unlikely that additional evidence of a brain abnormality would have made a difference." In dissent, Judge Reinhardt stated that the particularly "horrendous" nature of the crime should indicate "that there was something radically wrong with Leavitt, who was otherwise a law-abiding citizen, a father and a husband." Coverage of the case can be found here and here.
Over at Volokh Conspiracy, there is a post entitled, "When Judges Decide Against Type." The writer points out that a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit recently granted habeas relief on IAC grounds; however, the three judges on the case would generally be considered a "fairly conservative panel." Good to see a habeas grant, but the Supreme Court has been pretty active over the past few years reversing habeas grants out of the Sixth Circuit. I don't think it's gonna matter to the Court whether or not this panel of the Sixth Circuit was a bunch of farily conservative judges. The case is called Hardaway v. Robinson.
In Pennsylvania, a State Supreme Court judge, who used to be Philadelphia's district attorney, accused lawyers in that State's Capital Habeas Unit of intentionally, over-litigating a death penalty case in an attempt to delay the execution. The judge's words were much harsher. According to the article linked above, he said that they were trying to "sabotage" the system and were pursuing an intentionally "abusive" strategy intended to "exhaust as much of this court's time and resources as possible" and frustrate the legitimate exercise of the death penalty. In response, the lawyers called the accusations "unwarranted" and "unfounded."
And, in an interesting take on the Pennsylvania judge's opinion, Common Sense Political Blog states that the judge should be angry at the prosecutors who keep pursuing the death penalty, even though it is virtual assurance that the execution will never take place. The writer points out that Pennsylvania has put over 200 people on death row since the penalty was reinstated, but has only executed three of them and those three voluntarily gave up their appeals.