I just read about the huge* habeas win yesterday in the Second Circuit in Rivas v. Fischer.
*And when I say huge, I mean that both figuratively and literally - the decision is 64 pages.
The court held that petitioner had met the gateway innocence exception to the procedural default rule, allowing petitioner to proceed with his habeas petition even though it had been filed beyond the one-year time limit. Thus, the court holds, as a matter of first impression, that a gateway showing of actual innocence can equitably toll the statute of limitations. While it had been suggested before, it's great that this is now the rule in the Second Circuit.
Here is a nice summary of the court's holding lifted from the decision (citations omitted):
Rivas has raised a credible and compelling claim of actual innocence, as those concepts are understood in the relevant habeas jurisprudence. His claim is based on new information not presented to the jury that dramatically undermines the central forensic evidence linking him to the crime of which he was convicted. In sum and substance, Rivas has shown, through the essentially unchallenged testimony of a respected forensic pathologist, that the victim was almost certainly killed at a time when he had an uncontested alibi, and not earlier, as the prosecution had contended at his trial. We are not here called to determine whether Rivas is in fact innocent. However, on the record before us, we “cannot have confidence in the outcome of [Rivas’s] trial” unless we can be assured that “the trial was free of nonharmless constitutional error.”
[W]e now conclude, as a matter of first impression in this Circuit, that a credible and compelling showing of actual innocence under the standard described by the Supreme Court in Schlup and House warrants an equitable exception to AEDPA’s limitation period, allowing the petitioner to have his otherwise time-barred claims heard by a federal court. Because Rivas has made such a showing, we reverse the decision of the [district court] dismissing his petition for habeas relief and remand for full consideration of his underlying constitutional claims.
That's good stuff. Once I have made it all the way through the decision, I'll try and add some more.
Below are the details. What's interesting is that the issues in the lower court seemed to focus more on standard equitable tolling, i.e. the date of discovery of newly discovered evidence as opposed to the gateway innocence claim. In fact my original description did not mentin the gateway claim -- maybe because it wasn't mention in the lower court decision or maybe just my oversight. Either way, it's been added below.
Rivas v. Fischer, 10-1300-pr
- Status: Argued 12/8/11; Decided: July 9, 2012
- Panel: Cabranes, Sack, Pooler
- Opinion by Cabranes
- Lower Ct. Info: 01-CV-1891, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29689 (NDNY Mar. 26, 2010) (GLS) (DEP)
- In Circuit: District Court COA
- Issues: (1) when petitioner discovered the new evidence that serves as the factual predicate for some of his claims; (2) whether it could have been discovered earlier through the exercise of due diligence; (3) gateway innocence to overcome procedural default