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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. The is an unsigned editorial masquerading as a news story. Almost everyone quoted was biased in favor of letting all illegal immigrants remain in the U.S. (Ignoring that Obama deported 3.5 million in 8 years). For some reason Obama enforcing part of the immigration laws was O.K. but Trump enforcing additional parts is terrible. I have listed to press conferences and explanations of the Homeland Security memos and I gather from them that less than 1 million will be targeted for deportation, the "dreamers" will be left alone and illegals arriving in the last two years -- especially those arriving very recently -- will be subject to deportation but after the criminals. This will not substantially affect the GDP negatively, especially as it will take place over a number of years. I personally think this is a rational approach to the illegal immigration problem. It may cause Congress to finally pass new immigration laws rationalizing the whole immigration situation.

  2. Mr. Straw, I hope you prevail in the fight. Please show us fellow American's that there is a way to fight the corrupted justice system and make them an example that you and others will not be treated unfairly. I hope you the best and good luck....

  3. @ President Snow - Nah, why try to fix something that ain't broken??? You do make an excellent point. I am sure some Mickey or Minnie Mouse will take Ruckers seat, I wonder how his retirement planning is coming along???

  4. Can someone please explain why Judge Barnes, Judge Mathias and Chief Judge Vaidik thought it was OK to re weigh the evidence blatantly knowing that by doing so was against the rules and went ahead and voted in favor of the father? I would love to ask them WHY??? I would also like to ask the three Supreme Justices why they thought it was OK too.

  5. How nice, on the day of my car accident on the way to work at the Indiana Supreme Court. Unlike the others, I did not steal any money or do ANYTHING unethical whatsoever. I am suing the Indiana Supreme Court and appealed the failure of the district court in SDIN to protect me. I am suing the federal judge because she failed to protect me and her abandonment of jurisdiction leaves her open to lawsuits because she stripped herself of immunity. I am a candidate for Indiana Supreme Court justice, and they imposed just enough sanction so that I am made ineligible. I am asking the 7th Circuit to remove all of them and appoint me as the new Chief Justice of Indiana. That's what they get for dishonoring my sacrifice and and violating the ADA in about 50 different ways.

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