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Judge allows Corcoran to appeal denial of habeas corpus

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Joseph Corcoran, who has been sentenced to death for killing four men in 1997, will be allowed to appeal the denial of his petition for habeas corpus to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

U.S. Judge Jon DeGuilio in the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division, granted a certificate of appealability on one of the grounds Corcoran raised for relief. DeGuilio, who received Corcoran’s case from the 7th Circuit on remand, denied Corcoran’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus in January.

Corcoran’s case has made it all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States twice and both times the justices reversed the 7th Circuit’s holdings. The first time, 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 Corcoran’s unresolved challenges to his death sentence on remand.

In November 2010, the SCOTUS reiterated that federal courts can’t issue any writ of habeas corpus to state prisoners whose confinements do not violate U.S. law.

Corcoran was sentenced to death in 1999, but the Indiana Supreme Court vacated the sentence and remanded out of concern that the trial judge violated state law by partly relying on non-statutory aggravating factors when imposing the death penalty. The trial judge issued a revised sentencing order, and the state justices in 2002 found that was sufficient to affirm the sentence. They later denied any post-conviction relief and Corcoran turned to the federal court system. The late U.S. Judge Allen Sharp reversed Corcoran’s death sentence, which the 7th Circuit reinstated in 2008.

On March 27, DeGuilio granted the certificate of appealability pertaining to Corcoran’s allegations that the trial court relied on non-statutory factors in a way that violated the federal constitution, and that the trial court refused to consider mitigating evidence.

“The first sub-issue essentially hinges on interpreting the trial court’s written statement, contained in the amended sentencing order, that it did not rely on non-statutory factors. This court concluded that the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision to take the trial court at its word was reasonable, but, as with any question of ‘reasonableness,’ other jurists might well disagree, or at least find that there is room for debate,” DeGuilio wrote.

“The second sub-issue essentially hinges on the distinction between refusing to consider mitigating evidence, and refusing to consider evidence to be mitigating. It is more than a word game – the former is prohibited by law, but the latter is perfectly acceptable. Nonetheless, it is a fine distinction, and while this court interpreted the trial court’s actions to fall into the later category, a reasonable jurist might find room for debate.”

DeGuilio noted that Corcoran hadn’t asked for a certificate of appealability with respect to his challenge of the constitutionality of the Indiana sentencing statute itself, which the judge would not have granted because the statute is “clearly constitutional.”

 

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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