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7th Circuit: Man convicted in Gary shooting entitled to habeas relief

August 9, 2017

A man convicted in the 2010 shooting of a Gary man is entitled to conditional habeas corpus relief for Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause violations, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

Christopher Richardson will be granted relief unless the state seeks to retry him within 120 days, the court ruled in Christopher Richardson v. Kathy Griffin, Superintendent, Miami Correctional Facility, 2:14-cv-399.

The ruling overturns an Indiana Court of Appeals decision that affirmed Richardson’s conviction, finding any error was harmless because Richardson’s conviction was supported by substantial independent evidence of his guilt.

But the 7th Circuit saw otherwise. The panel pointed to evidence that included a police officer asking Samuel Mobley, who was shot in the leg, to identity “Chris” rather than the shooter in a photo array. “It is hard to imagine a worse identification procedure,” Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote for the panel. Likewise, a witness who identified Richardson as the shooter, Lazarus Holden, did not testify at trial, and other witnesses could not point our Richardson in court. This and other problems meet the bar of actual prejudice required for habeas relief, Wood wrote.

“(I)f the prosecution had made less out of Holden’s out-of-court identification of Richardson, the level of prejudice might have been low enough to allow the result to stand. But the opposite happened: even on direct examination, the prosecution brought out this impermissible testimony, and then harped on it from cross-examination, through redirect, and throughout the closing argument.

“This leaves us with the ‘grave doubt about whether a trial error of federal law had substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury’s verdict,” Wood wrote for the court.

   
 

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