Oral argument: Dec. 9, 2008
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (June 19, 2007)
FEDERAL HABEAS CORPUS REVIEW, HABEAS PETITION, WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, PROCEDURAL DEFAULT, FEDERALISM
Gary Cone was convicted and sentenced to death in the Criminal Court of Shelby County, Tennessee, for the murder of two people. Subsequent to Cone’s direct appeal, the state made available documents that both supported Cone’s defense that he was a drug addict at the time of the killings and impeached the testimonies of several witnesses. Respondent Bell argues for the state that Cone is procedurally barred from raising his grounds for relief in a federal habeas corpus review, as state courts already rejected it and Cone failed to properly argue it in the state courts. Petitioner Cone, however, argues that there should not be a procedural bar in this case because he did not receive the new information until his second request for post-conviction review, so the courts erroneously found that his claim had been previously decided. He also argues that it is the federal court’s duty in federal habeas review to examine grounds for relief based on federal law. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case could implicate the methods by which individuals convicted in state court can litigate their claims, both in state courts and upon federal habeas corpus review. Additionally, the Court’s decision could clarify the roles of state and federal courts in an area of law with implications for the federalist structure.