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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. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

  2. What a fine example of the best of the Hoosier tradition! How sad that the AP has to include partisan snark in the obit for this great American patriot and adventurer.

  3. Why are all these lawyers yakking to the media about pending matters? Trial by media? What the devil happened to not making extrajudicial statements? The system is falling apart.

  4. It is a sad story indeed as this couple has been only in survival mode, NOT found guilty with Ponzi, shaken down for 5 years and pursued by prosecution that has been ignited by a civil suit with very deep pockets wrenched in their bitterness...It has been said that many of us are breaking an average of 300 federal laws a day without even knowing it. Structuring laws, & civilForfeiture laws are among the scariest that need to be restructured or repealed . These laws were initially created for drug Lords and laundering money and now reach over that line. Here you have a couple that took out their own money, not drug money, not laundering. Yes...Many upset that they lost money...but how much did they make before it all fell apart? No one ask that question? A civil suit against Williams was awarded because he has no more money to fight...they pushed for a break in order...they took all his belongings...even underwear, shoes and clothes? who does that? What allows that? Maybe if you had the picture of him purchasing a jacket at the Goodwill just to go to court the next day...his enemy may be satisfied? But not likely...bitterness is a master. For happy ending lovers, you will be happy to know they have a faith that has changed their world and a solid love that many of us can only dream about. They will spend their time in federal jail for taking their money from their account, but at the end of the day they have loyal friends, a true love and a hope of a new life in time...and none of that can be bought or taken That is the real story.

  5. Could be his email did something especially heinous, really over the top like questioning Ind S.Ct. officials or accusing JLAP of being the political correctness police.

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