ILNews

Death row inmate denied relief by 7th Circuit

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
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
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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

ADVERTISEMENT