Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New evidence of government misconduct gives rise to federal claim

Williams v. Fahey, No. 3:09CV769, 2011 WL 2443722 (E.D. Va. June 14, 2011).

[This opinion concerns one of the "Norfolk Four." For a brief news story about this case, click here.  For other blog posts about this case, click here.]

On April 9, 2010, Police Detective Ford was indicted for lying to federal agents, judges, and state and federal prosecutors.

This indictment (and subsequent conviction) gave rise to Williams submitting his § 2254 petition.  Williams alleges that Detective Ford coerced Williams's confession to rape and murder.  Williams seeks a stay-and-abeyance of his federal petition so that hey may exhaust his state remedies with regard to this new claim.

Respondent contends that Ford's indictment cannot constitute "new evidence" to support a claim distinct from any claim previously available to Williams.  The Court disagrees.  When evidence not presented to the state court which places a case in a significantly different and stronger evidentiary posture than it was when the state court considered it, that new evidence may support stay-and-abeyance.  Ford's recent convictions lend factual heft to Williams's claim that Ford manipulated the investigation and prosecution against Williams.  Such allegations, if proven, could potentially entitle Williams to habeas relief.

Respondent also contends that the Virginia state courts will reject Williams's new petition because it violates the relevant statute of limitations.  However, interpretation of that statute does not appear to be as straightforward as Respondent suggests.  Not only is the case law unclear, but in the six months that Williams's state habeas petition has been pending in state court, the state court has not dismissed it.  Accordingly, the Court grants the stay-and-abeyance for Williams to pursue his new claim in the state court.

[For the same holding for Williams's codefendant, see Dick v. Fahey, No. 3:10CV505, 2011 WL 2443898 (E.D.Va. June 14, 2011).]

No comments:

Post a Comment