Cox v. Horn, No. 13-2982 (3d Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
More than 20 years ago, Cox was convicted in Philadelphia of first-degree murder and related charges. In 2000, he sought a federal writ of habeas corpus. The district court dismissed in 2004, finding that all but one of Cox’s claims were procedurally defaulted due to counsel’s failure to pursue them in initial post-conviction state court proceedings and that the preserved claim lacked merit. The Third Circuit affirmed. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Martinez v. Ryan, announcing an exception to longstanding precedent: under certain circumstances, for purposes of habeas review, post-conviction counsel’s failure to raise ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims could excuse a procedural default of those claims. Within three months, Cox moved under FRCP Rule 60(b)(6), for relief from the 2004 order. The district court denied the motion, finding that the intervening change in law, “without more,” did not provide cause for relief. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded. For relief to be granted under Rule 60(b)(6), “more” than the important change of law is required: what must be shown are “extraordinary circumstances where, without such relief, an extreme and unexpected hardship would occur.” What those extraordinary circumstances could be in the context of Martinez was neither offered to the district court by the parties nor discussed by the court.