Lesko v. Sec’y Pa. Dept. of Corr.

The Third Circuit dealt with an appeal from the denial of the petitioner’s second habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254. The petitioner was convicted of multiple homicides in state court and was sentenced to death. In his first 2254 petition, he won resentencing. But at the resentencing, the jury again sentenced him to death. After more state court proceedings, he filed his second 2254 petition with 22 challenges to the trial and resentencing. Of particular interest in this 90-page opinion, the Third Circuit determined that the challenges to the guilt-phase trial were not barred as a successive petition. The Third Circuit held that the District Court had jurisdiction over the guilt-phase claims because the resentencing created a new judgment as to each count of conviction for which a new or altered sentence was imposed while leaving undisturbed the judgments for any counts of conviction for which neither the sentence nor the conviction changed. Here, the petitioner was resentenced as to all counts. As a result, his guilt-phase claims were not barred as a second-or-successive petition. Nonetheless, on the merits, the Third Circuit affirmed the denial of relief.

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