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Cone v. Bell

Docket No.: 07-1114
Certiorari Granted: Jun 23 2008
Argued: December 9, 2008
Decided: April 28, 2009

PartyNames: Gary Bradford Cone v. Ricky Bell, Warden
Petitioner: Gary Bradford Cone
Respondent: Ricky Bell, Warden

Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Gary Bradford Cone
v.
Ricky Bell, Warden
Background:

On state post-conviction review, the Tennessee courts refused to consider petitioner's claim under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), on the ground that the claim had already been "previously determined" in the state system. On federal habeas, a divided panel of the Sixth Circuit held that the state courts' ruling precluded consideration of the Brady claim. The court of appeals reasoned (in conflict with decisions of five other circuits) that the claim had been "procedurally defaulted." The court of appeals further reasoned (widening an existing four-to-two circuit split) that the state courts' ruling was unreviewable. Seven judges dissented from the denial of rehearing en banc. The question presented is whether petitioner is entitled to federal habeas review of his claim that the State suppressed material evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, which encompasses two sub-questions:

Question Presented:

1. Is a federal habeas claim "procedurally defaulted" because it has been presented twice to the state courts? 2. Is a federal habeas court powerless to recognize that a state court erred in holding that state law precludes reviewing a claim?

Question:

1) Is Mr. Cone entitled to federal habeas review of his claim that the state suppressed material evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland? 2) Is Mr. Cone's federal habeas corpus claim "procedurally defaulted" because it has been presented twice at the state court level?

Holding: vacated and remanded
Vote: 6-3
Opinion By:
Read CONE V. BELL opinion (PDF)