Wellborn v. Berghuis, No. 09-1539 (6th Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Three petitioners received separate jury trials in Kent County, Michigan in 2001 or 2002. At jury selection, the petitioners did not object to racial composition of their respective venires; they were subsequently convicted. A few months later, the Grand Rapids Press published a story detailing how jury selection software had a computer glitch that had systematically excluded African-Americans from the jury pool. Petitioners each filed motions for post-conviction relief in state court. The state court found that the petitioners had waived these claims by failing to object to the racial composition of the jury venire during voir dire. A federal district court denied two habeas petitions, but another court granted the petition, holding that the petitioner could not have known of the computer glitch and presuming prejudice because the glitch caused a structural error. The Sixth Circuit remanded all three cases. Petitioners have shown cause to excuse their defaults, but federal-state comity requires that the district court find actual prejudice before granting relief.