Monday, May 30th, 2005

Circuit Grants Habeas Based on Trial Court’s Refusal to Admit Exculpatory Testimony of a Defense Witness from a Previous Trial

Christie v. Hollins, Docket No. 03-2878 (2d Cir. May 27, 2005) (Newman, Pooler, Katzmann) (Op. by Newman): A fabulous week for habeas petitioners: This is the second time in one week that the Circuit has reversed a district court’s denial of habeas and granted the writ. See Henry v. Poole, below. Here, Judge Newman concludes that the trial court’s refusal to allow the defense to introduce a witness’s exculpatory testimony from the defendant’s first trial (at which the jury acquitted the defendant of the two more serious counts, and hung on the third count), despite the defendant’s herculean efforts to ensure the presence of the witness at the second trial, violated the defendant’s right to present a defense at trial. This was so even applying AEDPA deference: The state courts’ determination that (1) the defense had not made diligent efforts to securethe witness’s presence at trial, and (2) the absence of the testimony made no difference to the outcome, was an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.

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