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House v. Bell

Docket No.: 04-8990
Certiorari Granted: Jun 28 2005
Argued: January 11, 2006
Decided: June 12, 2006

Topics:

Criminal Procedure, Habeas Corpus

PartyNames: Paul Gregory House v. Ricky Bell, Warden
Petitioner: Paul Gregory House
Respondent: Ricky Bell, Warden

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

Paul Gregory House
v.
Ricky Bell, Warden
547 U.S. 518 (2006)
Background:

Petitioner Paul House's compelling new evidence of innocence sharply split the full en banc Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal. A bare majority of eight judges determined that he presented a colorable claim of innocence, but not a sufficiently strong one that allowed either for review of his underlying constitutional claims. pursuant to Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298 (1995) or his free-standing innocence claim pursuant to Herrera v. Collins, 503 U.S. 390 (1993). Six dissenters determined that House's new evidence of innocence was so persuasive and compelling that it easily satisfied Schlup, met Justice White's demanding innocence standard in Herrera, and warranted his immediate release from prison. The seventh dissenter argued that the new evidence was sufficient to warrant habeas relief and a new trial where a jury could consider all the evidence. Two questions arise from this outcome that warrant this Court's review:

Question Presented:

1. Did the majority below err in applying this Court's decision in Schlup v. Delo to hold that Petitioner's compelling new evidence, though presenting at the very least a colorable claim of actual innocence, was as a matter of law insufficient to excuse his failure to present that evidence before the state courts -- merely because he had failed to negate each and every item of circumstantial evidence that had been offered against him at the original trial? 2. What constitutes a "truly persuasive showing of actual innocence" pursuant to Herrera v. Collins sufficient to warrant freestanding habeas relief?

Question:

Did the federal appeals court err in applying Schlup v. Delo to hold that House's new evidence, though presenting at the very least an arguable claim of innocence, was legally insufficient to excuse his failure to present that evidence in state court? What constitutes a "truly persuasive showing of actual innocence" under Herrera v. Collins, sufficient to warrant freestanding habeas relief?

Holding: judgment reversed and remanded
Vote: 5-3
Recused: Alito
Read HOUSE V. BELL opinion (PDF)

Other Resources for House v. Bell:
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