United States v. MacDonald, No. 15-7136 (4th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's successive 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion in this criminal proceeding stemming from murders committed four decades ago. The court rejected petitioner's prosecutorial misconduct claim based on the discovered evidence of a former Deputy U.S. Marshal that a threat from a prosecutor stopped another individual from confessing on the witness stand during petitioner's trial. The court also rejected petitioner's freestanding actual innocence claim premised on DNA testing. The court held that petitioner failed to overcome the procedural bar of section 2255(h)(1), because neither claim was based on newly discovered evidence that, if proven and viewed in light of the evidence as a whole, would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable factfinder would have found petitioner guilty of murdering his wife and daughters.
In the alternative, the court held that the prosecutorial misconduct claim failed on the merits where the factual findings were well-supported by the evidence and not clearly erroneous. Furthermore, petitioner failed to meet his extraordinarily high burden of showing actual innocence.