On March 1, 1979, Billy Joe Magwood (plaintiff) shot and killed a sheriff. Magwood was charged with aggravated murder. Magwood was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to death. Magwood filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 eight days before his scheduled execution. The Federal District Court stayed his execution. It conditionally granted the application on grounds that the trial court failed to consider statutory mitigating circumstances, and required that Magwood either be released or resentenced. In September 1986, the trial court found that statutory mitigating circumstances existed but that the aggravated nature of the murder still justified the death penalty. The courts of Alabama affirmed and this Court granted certiorari. In April 1997, Magwood filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus to challenge his new death sentence, on grounds that he was not given fair warning at the time of the murder that his crime would warrant a death sentence, and on grounds that his attorney gave ineffective assistance during the resentencing hearing. The Federal District Court conditionally granted his application. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed, finding the challenge to be an unreviewable second or successive challenge under § 2244(b). The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.