Sunday, June 17, 2007

And while you are there....

Continuing the slow march to Monday and more decisions, the 11th Circuit's decision in Kuenzel v. Allen, No. 06-11986 is worth mentioning. In Kuenzel, the court vacated and remanded the decision of the district court denying habeas. While the district court had concluded that the petition was time-barred, the 11th Circuit disagreed on a procedural ground, not worth mentioning for the time it would take to explain. What is worth mentioning is the panel's discussion of the petitioner's claim of "actual innocence," which the district court declined to address. From footnote 3:

Since the beginning of his federal action, Kuenzel has argued that he is actually innocent. But despite having expressly addressed, in its series of rulings, Kuenzel’s other arguments for equitable tolling, the district court has never addressed Kuenzel’s actual innocence claim. The phrase, “actual innocence,” does not appear in any of the district court’s relevant orders. While we do not hint that Kuenzel’s claim of actual innocence has real merit – or that he is even entitled to an evidentiary hearing on this claim – our view is that Kuenzel’s persistent reliance on this argument warrants the district court’s express acknowledgment, especially because the district court examined or mentioned Kuenzel’s other equitable tolling arguments. We cannot dispose of this case without dealing, in some way, with Kuenzel’s claim of innocence; and we are uncomfortable with ruling on this argument when the district court has made no findings or conclusions and has not even mentioned the argument.

As many may know from their own work, its important to not only look at what a court says in its opinion/order, but what it does not say. I find it curious that the district court did not even mention the actual innocence claim, since many times it is the only claim courts are remotely interested in! If anyone has more information on this claim, particularly out of evidence that was discovered post-conviction, I would appreciate it. Comments are open.

48 comments:

David K said...

Thank you for your post. I represent Mr. Kuenzel in this action and argued this case before the 11th Circuit.

I think your analysis was dead on. Since 1990, no court has addressed the merits of Mr. Kuenzel's case. Although I believe Mr. Kuenzel has an exceptionally strong case on the facts as well as evidence of constitutional violations, in light of the case's present posture, I am uncomfortable providing a full analysis on this site.

Suffice it to say that there are a significant number of facts, old and new, which we believe in the aggregate satisfy the Schlup/House exception to the procedural bar rule. Since both space and time limitations preclude an exhaustive recitation of these facts through this post, if you are interested in receiving a fairly short submission which contains these facts, please feel free to e-mail me at dkochman@andersonkill.com.

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