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McCleskey v. Zant
United States Supreme Court
499 U.S. 467 (1991)
In 1978, Warren McCleskey (defendant) was sentenced to death for the murder of an off-duty policeman during a store robbery. McCleskey confessed to police that he participated in the robbery but presented an alibi defense at trial. Jailhouse informant Offie Evans testified that McCleskey bragged about the murder. Courts ultimately rejected McCleskey’s direct appeal, first state habeas petition, first federal habeas petition, and second state habeas petition. Finally, in 1987, McCleskey discovered a previously undisclosed 21-page statement that Evans gave police two weeks before McCleskey’s original trial that detailed Evans’s conversations with McCleskey and other information that Evans gathered about McCleskey. McCleskey filed a second federal habeas petition that raised a Massiah claim that the 21-page statement evidenced the police’s effort to induce McCleskey to make incriminating statements to Evans, violating McCleskey’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Importantly, McCleskey had previously raised a Massiah claim during his first state habeas petition, but not in his other habeas proceedings. The district court held evidentiary hearings to determine whether the state engineered Evans and McCleskey’s relationship. During the evidentiary hearings, McCleskey discovered Ulysses Worthy, a jailer who claimed that someone requested permission to move Evans to a cell near McCleskey’s cell. The federal district court found that a Massiah violation occurred and granted relief. The appellate court reversed, finding that McCleskey abused the writ of habeas corpus by raising his Massiah claim in a successive petition without justifying his failure to raise it during his first petition. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)
Dissent (Marshall, J.)
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