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7th Circuit: Courts wrongfully denied re-litigation

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Finding Indiana state and District courts erred in denying a convicted killer the chance to re-litigate his claim for relief from execution because he is mentally retarded, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the District Court's denial of the man's habeas petition.

Ever since Howard Allen Jr.'s conviction and death sentence in 1988, he has petitioned the state courts to consider his claim that he is mentally retarded and can't be executed. The trial court considered his mental retardation as a mitigating factor, but found it didn't outweigh the aggravating circumstances and upheld the death sentence. The Indiana Supreme Court held the 1994 state law banning the execution of the mentally retarded wasn't retroactive and didn't apply to Allen.

After the Supreme Court of the United States issued Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), Allen sought relief, but the Indiana Supreme Court determined because he had already litigated his claim that he was mentally retarded as a mitigating circumstance, he couldn't re-litigate his Atkins claim. The District Court denied Allen's habeas petition without a hearing in 2006, concluding that caselaw didn't entitle Allen to habeas relief.

In Howard A. Allen Jr. v. United States of America, No. 07-2486, the 7th Circuit found the state's Supreme Court decision that Allen couldn't re-litigate his claim under Atkins was contrary to the SCOTUS holding, which recognized a difference between using mental retardation as a mitigating factor and categorically excluding mentally retarded persons from the death penalty, wrote Judge Ann Claire Williams.

In addition, because the state courts never considered Allen's evidence using the proper Atkins inquiry, it is "objectively unreasonable to conclude that Allen had a 'full and fair' hearing on his Atkins claim," she wrote.

On remand, the 7th Circuit ordered the District Court to give Allen a chance to develop the factual basis of his claim and present it at an evidentiary hearing. Then the court must determine, using Indiana's standard for mental retardation, whether Allen is entitled to relief under Atkins.

The federal appellate judges also considered Allen's arguments pursuant to Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104 (1982), that he should have received a new penalty phase hearing before a jury and that the sentencing court ignored some of his mitigating evidence; and that his statements were taken in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The 7th Circuit affirmed the judgment of the District Court on these arguments because the federal appellate court is constrained by the Indiana Supreme Court's findings that the trial court considered the evidence, and because Allen failed to establish the state court's adjudication of his Miranda claims resulted in a decision contrary to SCOTUS precedent.

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  1. For many years this young man was "family" being my cousin's son. Then he decided to ignore my existence and that of my daughter who was very hurt by his actions after growing up admiring, Jason. Glad he is doing well, as for his opinion, if you care so much you wouldn't ignore the feelings of those who cared so much about you for years, Jason.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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