Norris v. United States, No. 15-10390 (11th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Petitioner was convicted of forcing women into prostitution and sentenced to life in prison. On remand, a different judge sentenced petitioner to 35 months of imprisonment. Three years after the trial, the United States disclosed that the judge who presided over petitioner's trial and sentenced him to life in prison, Jack Camp, had bipolar disorder and had suffered a brain injury. The investigation also disclosed allegations of racial bias. The court concluded that petitioner sufficiently alleged that Camp was actually biased against him where he proffered evidence that Camp had a difficult time adjudicating African-American men's cases and specifically disliked petitioner based on the fact that petitioner was a black man who pimped white women. Petitioner also alleged that Camp wanted to give all black offenders who pimped white women the maximum possible penalty, and Camp gave petitioner the maximum penalty. The government concedes that denial of an impartial judge is structural error that demands reversal. The court concluded that the district court must allow petitioner on remand an evidentiary hearing to prove that Camp was actually biased against him. The court concluded, however, that the district court correctly denied petitioner's claim that Camp was mentally incompetent without an evidentiary hearing. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.