Sixth Circuit Issues Two En Banc Habeas Decisions in Four Days
Last Friday and again yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued an en banc decision in a capital habeas case. Both decisions were closely divided, though each in a slightly different way, and both went against the habeas petitioner.
On Friday, in Hill v. Shoop, the en banc court affirmed the district court’s denial of Danny Hill’s habeas petition, rejecting Hill’s argument that he was ineligible for the death penalty because he is intellectually disabled. Specifically, the court concluded that the Ohio court’s application of Atkins v. Virginia did not represent an “unreasonable” application of clearly established federal law (as required by AEDPA). Hill had argued that the evidence of his intellectual disability presented at his original trial (prior to Atkins) satisfied the Atkins test, whereas the court concluded that it was not unreasonable for a later state court to reach a different conclusion in a subsequent (post-Atkins) hearing, based upon the evidence before it at the time.
The court split 9-7 in Hill, largely along traditional ideological lines. Judge Gibbons wrote for the court, joined by Chief Judge Sutton and Judges Griffin, Kethledge Thapar, Bush Larsen, Nalbandian and Readler. Judge Moore wrote the dissent, joined by Judges Merritt, Cole, Clay, White, Stranch and Donald. [Not
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