Blystone v. Horn, No. 05-9002 (3d Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
In 1984, petitioner was sentenced to death following his convictions in Pennsylvania state court for first-degree murder, robbery, conspiracy to commit murder, and conspiracy to commit robbery. After exhausting state court remedies, he filed a petition for habeas corpus. The district court denied relief on guilt phase claims, but granted the writ as to the death sentence, finding that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate or introduce expert mental health testimony and institutional records in mitigation. Petitioner then filed, and the court denied, an FRCP 59(e) motion to amend the judgment based on alleged newly discovered evidence of prosecutorial misconduct during the guilt phase of trial. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, first holding that a timely Rule 59(e) motion is not a second or successive petition, whether or not it advances a claim; such a motion lies outside jurisdictional limitations that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, 28 U.S.C. 2244(b) imposes upon multiple collateral attacks. The district court was within its discretion in finding that the evidence submitted was not newly discovered, since petitioner had possession of it many months before the District Court denied habeas relief. Trial counsel's performance was inadequate and petitioner can show prejudice.