Baxter v. Superintendent Coal Twp. SCI

The Third Circuit granted the appellee’s motion to publish its opinion in Baxter v. Superintendent Coal Twp. SCI. The case arose in the context of a habeas corpus petition wherein the petitioner claimed that the trial court’s reasonable doubt instruction to the jury was inaccurate and caused prejudice. The instruction provided the example that if … Read more

Holland v. Warden Canaan USP

In Holland v. Warden Canaan USP, the Third Circuit heard a rare appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief based on a petition filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 instead of § 2255. Here, the petitioner was convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) when he traded drugs for a gun. After the date of the conviction, … Read more

Commonwealth v. Speight

In 2017, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied the defendant’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus as to the guilt phase of his state criminal trial but granted relief with respect to his death sentence and remanded the case for resentencing. The District Court granted this relief only … Read more

Commonwealth v. Moore

In Commonwealth v. Moore, a criminal defendant filed a petition decades after his conviction. He claimed that the life-without-parole sentence he is serving violates his due process rights because the sentencing statute is vague. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered whether that claim is a challenge to the legality of a sentence. If it is, it … Read more

Bracey v. Superintendent Rockview SCI

In 1995, Bracey was convicted of murder in Pennsylvania state court. In 2010, he learned the Commonwealth had disclosed only some of the cases that were pending against the primary two cooperating witnesses, who testified for the Commonwealth. Based on this newly-discovered information, Bracey filed a PCRA petition, which the Court of Common Pleas dismissed … Read more

Commonwealth v. Lambert

In Commonwealth v. Lambert, defense counsel filed a motion for a writ of habeas corpus after the defendant’s preliminary hearing. At the motion’s hearing, the Commonwealth did not present any evidence and asserted that the Commonwealth was entitled to rely on “what happened at the preliminary hearing.” The trial court granted the writ and dismissed … Read more

Travillion v. Superintendent Rockview SCI

The 3rd Circuit granted a writ of habeas corpus in Travillion v. Superintendent Rockview SCI after holding that the Commonwealth failed to present sufficient evidence that the petitioner was the perpetrator of a robbery. The evidence at trial proved that, during the robbery of a retail store, the culprit left behind a manila folder with … Read more

Spanier v. Dir. Dauphin Cty. Prob. Servs.

In Spanier v. Dir. Dauphin Cty. Prob. Servs., Spanier, the former Penn State president, challenged his state-court conviction through a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that his rights under the Due Process and Ex Post Facto Clauses were violated. He also argued that his due process rights were violated by the application … Read more

Howell v. Superintendent Albion SCI

In Howell v. Superinrtendent Albion SCI, Howell filed a F.R.C.P. 60(b)(6) motion to set aside the earlier dismissal of his habeas petition. Rule 60(b)(6) serves as a gateway past the procedural default of an untimely habeas petition. The 3rd Circuit ruled that Howell made a sufficient showing of actual innocence to gain relief under Rule 60(b)(6). Therefore, … Read more

Tyson v. Superintendent Houtzdale SCI

In Tyson v Superintendent Houtzdale SCI, the 3rd Circuit held that a criminal defendant’s trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to the trial court’s jury instruction. The trial court incorrectly instructed the jury that an accomplice to first-degree murder must only act to promote or facilitate the commission of a crime to … Read more