Tuesday, May 15, 2007

First Circuit punts on the interplay of a state prisoner's Brady claim and AEDPA time limits

Today, the First Circuit held that a state prisoner was time-barred from filing a Federal Habeas petition because an exercise of "garden-variety" diligence at the time of trial would have uncovered the factual predicate relied on for a Brady claim. The case is Wood v. Spencer, 2007 WL1413217 (1st Cir. 2007). By focusing on the petitioner's lack of diligence, the court avoided the question of whether a Brady claim can constitute a state-created impediment that tolls the time period under §2244(d)(1)(b). It did so through an interesting analogy:
The question, then, is whether Wood was “prevented” from filing a federal
habeas petition by reason of some unconstitutional state action (here, the
alleged Brady violation).In answering that question, Wood's available
alternatives are of considerable relevance. After all, were someone to erect a
barrier across a highway, it would be impossible to decide whether the barrier
“prevented” a motorist from proceeding to his destination without credible
information as to the width of the highway, the size of the barrier, and the
dimensions of the vehicle. If the barrier left ample room for the vehicle to
pass, it could not fairly be said to “prevent” the motorist's access to his
destination.So it is here. There is no reliable way to measure the obstructive
effect of the alleged Brady violation without knowing what other means of access
to the same information were within Wood's ken and available to him. Just as a
person who has the ability to drive around a barrier hardly can blame his
delayed arrival at his destination on the presence of the impediment, so too the
person who has notice that information exists and ready access to it hardly can
blame his inaction on the state's failure to deliver the information to

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