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7th Circuit grants writ of habeas corpus

May 3, 2010

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the denial of a habeas corpus petition, finding the Indiana Court of Appeals unreasonably applied federal law when it determined prior statements of identification by witnesses the government suppressed didn’t create a reasonable probability of a different result at trial.

Walter Lee Goudy appealed the denial of his habeas corpus petition by the District Court, arguing he was denied a fair trial because of the government’s failure to disclose three eyewitness statements that implicated one of its main witnesses and the failure of Goudy’s counsel to introduce his brother’s tape-recorded confession.

Goudy was convicted of killing Marvin McCloud while McCloud sat in his car, and wounding the front-seat passenger. Eyewitnesses at Goudy’s trial, including the state’s primary witness, Kaidi Harvell, gave different descriptions of the man they believed was Goudy. Eyewitnesses also gave different accounts regarding which side of the car the suspect was sitting on.

The government didn’t share at trial three police reports with statements by the witnesses that differ from the trial accounts, including that many of the witnesses picked Harvell out of a photo lineup as the shooter on the driver’s side. The jury also didn’t hear the tape-recorded confession by Romeo Lee, Goudy’s brother, who was there at the time of the shooting. He said he and Goudy were often confused for each other because of their similar appearances.

Goudy appealed to the Indiana Court of Appeals, Supreme Court, and for post-conviction relief. All affirmed his convictions.

In Walter Lee Goudy v. James Basinger, superintendent, No. 08-3679, the Circuit judges found the Indiana Court of Appeals identified the correct legal principle -- Goudy had to demonstrate a reasonable probability that the new evidence would lead to a different result. But the appellate court decision required he prove the new evidence “would have” established his innocence, wrote Judge William Bauer.

“In short, Goudy has shown that the state court’s decision on his Brady claim involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law,” wrote the judge. “Rather than applying a ‘reasonable probability’ standard for materiality of suppressed evidence as required by United States v. Bagley, the court unreasonably required Goudy to show that the suppressed evidence would establish his innocence. The court did not recognize Bagley’s requirement that the effect of suppressed evidence be assessed cumulatively.”

Because the Circuit Court granted Goudy’s petition on the police report issue, the judges didn’t decide whether Goudy received ineffective assistance of counsel. The state has 120 days to retry Goudy or release him.

 

 

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