I had mentioned that there was both good and bad during my break from blogging. I already talked about the really, really bad.
Let's shift to the good. The Second Circuit granted a habeas petition back on December 1 in Cornell v. Kirkpatrick.
The issue actually is pretty simple. IAC based on counsel's failure to object based on venue grounds. Petitioner was charged with two rapes. Only one of the rapes occurred in the county in which he was tried. The prosecutor acknowledged this in his opening and closing, and, according to the Second Circuit, the evidence established that one of the rapes did indeed occur in a different county. The prosecutor had proceeded under the "automobile exception" to the venue statute. But the Court of Appeals had strictly limited that exception to situations where it was literally "impossible" to determine the actual county. It is pretty clear (or at least clear enough) that this happened in the county that housed Rochester and its environs -- not the county in which the case was prosecuted.
One other note: the court only granted relief on the conviction for the rape that took place in the other county. The court determined that this error had no spill over effect on the rape case that was prosecuted in the appropriate county.
Honestly, this seems like a pretty easy case to me. It really is an issue that should have been resolved back in state court. But when faced with a situation like this -- a winning, purely legal issue, where relief should be granted even though the evidence of guilt in a highly inflammatory case is strong -- state courts are often hesitant to do what's right. One reason why federal habeas relief remains so vital to the system. Such a shame that the Supreme Court seems so dead set on rendering it powerless.
I read a nice discussion of the Cornell decision here.
Here are the details:
Cornell v. Kirkpatrick, 10-561-pr
- Reversing Denial of Habeas; Habeas Granted on
- Argued: 8/23/11; Decided 12/1/11; Published Opinion by Straub
- Panel: Newman, Cabranes, Straub
- Lower Ct. Info: 06-CV-0734, 2010 WL 161429 (WDNY Jan. 13, 2010) (MAT)
- In Circuit: Circuit Ct. COA
- Issue: (1) whether appellant was prejudiced by counsel's failure to object to venue in Ontario County; (2) whether counsel was ineffective for failing to request that a venue charge be delivered to the jury