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Death row inmate denied relief by 7th Circuit

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An Arkansas man on death row in Indiana for killing a woman in Texas nearly 20 years ago was unable to convince the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that he should not be put to death. Bruce Carneil Webster argues he is mentally retarded and has new evidence that would affect his sentence.

There is no question that Webster is guilty of killing the woman in 1994, the court opinion states, but Webster claims that Social Security Administration records his current legal team acquired could have changed the outcome of his trial. He applied for the benefits before the crime was committed, and it shows that Webster scored under 60 on an IQ test. Webster had presented other evidence at his trial that he is mentally retarded, but the prosecutor presented evidence that Webster is not retarded and trying to use the diagnosis to get out of the death penalty.

Webster originally sought relief in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals under 28 U.S.C. Section 2255, but they were denied. He then sought collateral relief under Section 2241 in federal court in Terre Haute, where he is incarcerated. Judge William Lawrence of the Southern District of Indiana denied his petition, finding it is blocked by Section 2255(e). Lawrence found Webster’s own failure to present the SSA evidence does not demonstrate statutory inadequacy or ineffectiveness.

“We agree with that conclusion. Taken in the light most favorable to Webster – which is to say, on the assumption that the evidence is “newly discovered” and might have affected the jury’s evaluation — the arguments now presented tend to impugn the effectiveness of Webster’s former lawyers but not of §2255. The trial, the direct appeal, and the proceeding under §2255 offered opportunities to use the evidence that Webster now seeks to present. That Webster’s legal team did not take (full) advantage of those opportunities does not demonstrate a flaw in the statute,” Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote in Bruce Carneil Webster v. John F. Caraway, Warden, United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute, 14-1049.

“No court of appeals has deemed §2255 ‘inadequate or ineffective’ just because counsel failed to take maximum advantage of the opportunity it extends. … Webster does not persuade us to change course,” he wrote.

Webster has long known of the “newly discovered” evidence, Easterbrook pointed out, and his trial lawyer knew about it, but appears he did not simply follow through on obtaining it. And the Social Security records would not facilitate a new line of defense, the judges held.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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