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Thursday, August 04, 2016

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today, 2-1

In Glenn Bradford v. Richard Brown (SD Ind., Magnus-Stinson), a 37-page, 2-1, prisoner appeal, Judge Posner writes:

In 1993 Glenn Bradford was convicted in an Indiana state court of a murder and arson committed in Evansville the previous year, and was sentenced to 80 years in prison, where he remains. In 2013 he filed this federal habeas corpus suit, in which he claims that he can prove his innocence. He asks for a new trial, which the district judge denied, precipitating this appeal. * * *

The judgment denying habeas corpus is AFFIRMED.

[p. 12] HAMILTON, Circuit Judge, dissenting. Petitioner Bradford has come forward with powerful evidence of both his innocence and his trial lawyers’ ineffective assistance in dealing with the critical scientific issue—the duration of the fire in Tamara Lohr’s bedroom. The State and the courts upholding Bradford’s convictions have not yet offered a plausible theory to account for the physical evidence of the fire and the time Bradford supposedly set it. Instead, to rebut the scientific foundation for Bradford’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, the majority has struck out on its own with some modest criticisms based on the majority’s own research and analysis. Those criticisms do not undermine the conclusion that Bradford could not have been the arsonist and murderer. Bradford and his key post-conviction expert also have not had an opportunity to respond to even these modest criticisms. Rather than affirm the denial of relief for Bradford based on these untested critiques, we should order a new trial to test all the relevant evidence. I respectfully dissent. * * *

[p. 36] To sum up, even if Carpenter’s analysis has a couple of mi-nor errors in it, his analysis is the only analysis of the fire’s duration with a scientific and empirical basis. His conclusion appears sound, and the State did not show otherwise. If it is correct, it exonerates Bradford. In a new trial, the State would have the chance to attack the scientific analysis on its merits. Perhaps the State would then be able to show that Carpenter’s work is not to be trusted. Or perhaps it could present, finally, an expert who could explain in reliable scientific terms how a fire could have done the damage this fire did so quickly with-out leaving unmistakable signs of a much hotter fire.

Given the state court’s conclusion that the analysis Carpenter provided was available at the time of the original trial, I would treat the failure to seek and find such critical expert evidence as ineffective assistance of counsel. In the alternative, I would treat this case as appropriate for an actual innocence grant of habeas corpus. We should order issuance of a writ of habeas corpus directing that Bradford be released or retried.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 4, 2016 01:50 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions