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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today

In Overstreet v. Sup. Ind. State Prison (ND Ind., Simon), a 29-page 2-1 opinion (with a dissent beginning on p. 11), Chief Judge Easterbrook writes:

A jury concluded that Michael Overstreet kidnapped, raped, and murdered Kelly Eckart. The jury recommended that he be executed for these offenses, and the state judge imposed a death sentence. The Supreme Court of Indiana affirmed Overstreet’s convictions and sentence, 783 N.E.2d 1140 (2003), and affirmed an order denying his petition for post-conviction relief, 877 N.E.2d 144 (2007). The only issues in this collateral attack under 28 U.S.C. §2254 concern the penalty. The district court denied Overstreet’s petition. 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22175 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 4, 2011). AFFIRMED.
Circuit Judge Wood's dissent concludes:
The district court, and now my colleagues, have concluded that this record does not show that the decision of the Supreme Court of Indiana was objectively unreasonable, as it must be in order to warrant the grant of Overstreet’s petition under § 2254. With respect, I cannot agree with them. The only three explanations that the state supreme court gave were unreasonable, because they were based on inaccurate factual assumptions. At the heart of the problem lies counsel’s deficient performance in failing to put before the sentencing jury the available evidence showing the seriousness of Overstreet’s mental illness. A capital jury cannot make its decision with only half of the story before it, or worse, with objectively inaccurate information. Indeed, the Supreme Court has stressed that the defendant must be able to put all of his mitigating evidence before such a jury. See Wiggins, 539 U.S. at 537; Williams, 529 U.S. at 396. Overstreet was prejudiced when that opportunity slipped away because of his counsels’ decisions.

I would grant the petition for a writ of habeas corpus limited to the sentence imposed, and I would give the state an opportunity to conduct resentencing proceedings within a reasonable period of time. I therefore respectfully dissent.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 11, 2012 11:41 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions