ILNews

SCOTUS reverses 7th Circuit a second time on capital case

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

An Indiana case has prompted the nation’s highest court to reiterate that federal courts can’t issue any writ of habeas corpus to state prisoners whose confinements do not violate U.S. law.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals tried that when it second-guessed the Indiana Supreme Court on a death penalty case, but the Supreme Court of the United States has shaken its proverbial finger on this litigation that’s jumped between state and federal courts through the years.

In its seven-page per curiam decision today in Bill K. Wilson, Superintendent, Indiana State Prison v. Joseph E. Corcoran, No. 10-91, the court overturned a 7th Circuit ruling from earlier this year that was based on a perceived flaw in how the Indiana Supreme Court decided the capital case.

“But it is only noncompliance with federal law that renders a State’s criminal judgment susceptible to collateral attack in the federal courts,” the opinion says.

This is the second time the SCOTUS has reversed the 7th Circuit on this case after finding that the appellate court wrongly dismissed the death penalty imposed for the four murders in 1997. Corcoran was convicted and sentenced to die in 1999, but the Indiana Supreme Court vacated that sentence and remanded it out of concern the Allen Superior judge had 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. District Judge Allen Sharp overturned the death penalty against Corcoran’s wishes based on a Sixth Amendment violation regarding state law. Judge Sharp didn’t address any of Corcoran’s other claims on appeal. The 7th Circuit reinstated that sentence in December 2008 and ordered the federal court to deny the writ. The SCOTUS reversed that holding last year, finding that the 7th Circuit should have allowed those other remaining claims to be considered. The 7th Circuit in January granted habeas relief and ordered a full re-sentencing.

But now, the SCOTUS reverses that ruling. The justices made it clear they weren’t expressing any view on the merits of the habeas petition.

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. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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.

ADVERTISEMENT