7th Circuit sends Corcoran case back to trial court

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Following a remand from the United States Supreme Court in late 2010, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals admitted it made mistakes in its recent decision involving a convicted murderer’s appeal and sent the case to the District Court to address habeas relief claims.

This is the second time this case has been considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, and both times the justices reversed the 7th Circuit’s holding. The first time the case made it before the nation’s highest court, the justices vacated the 7th Circuit’s order that the District Court deny the writ for habeas relief, writing that the 7th Circuit should have allowed the District Court to consider Joseph Corcoran’s unresolved challenges to his death sentence on remand.

In the per curiam decision released Thursday in Joseph E. Corcoran v. Bill Wilson, superintendent, Nos. 07-2093, 07-2182, the 7th Circuit admitted to making “two critical misjudgments” – one procedural and one substantive. The procedural mistake was taking up Corcoran’s challenges for habeas relief that weren’t addressed earlier by the District Court instead of sending the case back to the lower court to address them. The District Court considered only two of Corcoran’s claims for relief and held the state courts had reasonably concluded Corcoran was competent to waive his state post-conviction remedies. The District Court also held the prosecutor violated the Sixth Amendment by offering to forgo the death penalty if Corcoran would waive his right to a jury trial. It granted habeas relief on the Sixth Amendment claim and ordered Corcoran re-sentenced to anything but to death.

The judges said this procedural misstep led to the substantive error, which the U.S. Supreme Court pointed out in its November 2010 decision: Federal courts can’t issue any writ of habeas corpus to state prisoners whose confinements don’t violate U.S. law.

Corcoran was convicted of killing four men in 1997 and was sentenced to death. He appealed and initially waived state post-conviction relief after he was found competent to forego further challenges to his sentence. He later changed his mind and tried to file for a petition for post-conviction relief, and that’s when the case moved to federal court.

The Circuit Court reinstated and incorporated by reference its earlier opinion in Corcoran v. Buss to the extent that it reversed the District Court’s judgment granting habeas relief on the basis of the claimed Sixth Amendment violation; and it affirmed the District Court’s conclusion that the Indiana courts did not mishandle the issue of Corcoran’s competence to waive post-conviction remedies. The court also reinstated Judge Ann Claire Williams’ dissent regarding the competency issue.

The case will now be before U.S. Judge Jon DeGuilio, who replaced the late Judge Allen Sharp, to address Corcoran’s remaining grounds for habeas relief.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.