Academic journal article William and Mary Law Review

AEDPA Deference and the Undeveloped State Factual Record: Monroe V. Angelone and New Evidence

Academic journal article William and Mary Law Review

AEDPA Deference and the Undeveloped State Factual Record: Monroe V. Angelone and New Evidence

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In 1992, Beverly Anne Monroe was convicted in a Virginia state court of murdering her boyfriend. (1) She exhausted the appeals process in the Virginia court system and filed a petition for habeas corpus with the Virginia Supreme Court. (2) Her most compelling claim alleged prosecutorial suppression of evidence. (3) Among other allegations, she accused the prosecution of failing to disclose that its chief witness was a career informant who received a sentence reduction in exchange for her testimony. (4) The Virginia Supreme Court denied Monroe's petition, summarily ruling that those claims that had not been procedurally defaulted were without merit. (5) The court also summarily denied Monroe's motion for additional discovery, through which she might have uncovered more evidence and further developed her claim. (6)

Petitioner then filed for habeas relief in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, again claiming prosecutorial suppression of evidence. (7) The district court reviewed her claims in accordance with the precepts of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). (8) AEDPA mandates that federal courts reviewing state court dispositions of habeas petitions "adjudicated ... on the merits"--those decided on substantive rather than procedural grounds (9)--must defer to those dispositions unless the state court's decision is "contrary to, or involve[s] an unreasonable application of, clearly established" Supreme Court precedent. (10) Petitioner was able to show good cause that she would be entitled to relief were she able to develop fully the factual basis for her claim, and therefore, the federal court granted petitioner's motion for additional discovery. (11) During federal discovery, petitioner uncovered a "wealth of exculpatory evidence that the prosecution had suppressed." (12) The district court and, on appeal, the Fourth Circuit reviewed all "new evidence" discovered in the federal proceeding independently and the Brady claim itself de novo, reasoning that if the state court had never considered the new evidence, there was no way to apply AEDPA deference to findings regarding such evidence. (13) The Fourth Circuit then proceeded to review the entire record cumulatively, affording a presumption of correctness only to those evidentiary items on which the state court had made explicit findings. (14) It affirmed the district court's grant of habeas relief primarily on the strength of the "new evidence" on which deference did not operate. (15)

The Fourth Circuit's decision to review the evidence independently and the claim in totality de novo seems unassailable. Logically, a state court cannot rule on a claim when the facts supporting it did not surface until the federal proceeding. (16) However, the federal courts have not uniformly applied the same principle in similar circumstances: when evidence is available to a state court but the state court does not actually consider that evidence during its proceedings--for example, if the state court rules on a petitioner's claim without granting her an evidentiary hearing to develop the factual basis of her claim, (17) or if the state court loses evidence during habeas proceedings and rules without considering that evidence. (18) In such circumstances, federal circuits are split as to whether to apply AEDPA deference to any state court decision made on the merits of the claim.

This Note argues that courts should treat all material evidence not considered by the state courts as "new evidence"--whether it surfaces during state or federal proceedings--and that courts should review the claim as supported by the new evidence de novo, as the Fourth Circuit did in Monroe. (19) Part I of this Note briefly discusses AEDPA and the manner in which this legislation has changed federal habeas review. (20) This Part also examines recent Supreme Court precedent regarding the application of AEDPA standards in federal court and argues that despite these opinions, uncertainty persists as to how federal courts must apply deference. …

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