Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 420 (2000)

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420

OCTOBER TERM, 1999

Syllabus

WILLIAMS v. TAYLOR, WARDEN

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fourth circuit

No. 99-6615. Argued February 28, 2000—Decided April 18, 2000

After petitioner was convicted of two capital murders and other crimes, he was sentenced to death. The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed on direct appeal and later dismissed petitioner's state habeas corpus petition. He then sought federal habeas relief, requesting, among other things, an evidentiary hearing on three constitutional claims, which he had been unable to develop in the state-court proceedings. Those claims were that (1) the prosecution had violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U. S. 83, in failing to disclose a report of a pretrial psychiatric examination of Jeffrey Cruse, petitioner's accomplice and the Commonwealth's main witness against petitioner; (2) the trial was rendered unfair by the seating of a juror who at voir dire had not revealed possible sources of bias; and (3) a prosecutor committed misconduct in failing to reveal his knowledge of the juror's possible bias. The District Court granted an evidentiary hearing on, inter alia, the latter two claims, but denied a hearing on the Brady claim. Before any hearing could be held, however, the Fourth Circuit granted the Commonwealth's requests for an emergency stay and for a writ of mandamus and prohibition, which were based on the argument that an evidentiary hearing was prohibited by 28 U. S. C. 2254(e)(2), as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). On remand, the District Court vacated its order granting an evidentiary hearing and dismissed the petition, having determined petitioner could not satisfy 2254(e)(2)'s requirements. In affirming, the Fourth Circuit agreed with petitioner's argument that the statute would not apply if he had exercised diligence in state court, but held, among other things, that he had not been diligent and so had "failed to develop the factual basis of [his three] claim[s] in State court," 2254(e)(2). The court concluded that petitioner could not satisfy the statute's conditions for excusing his failure to develop the facts and held him barred from receiving an evidentiary hearing.

Held: Under 2254(e)(2), as amended by AEDPA, a "fail[ure] to develop" a claim's factual basis in state-court proceedings is not established unless there is lack of diligence, or some greater fault, attributable to the prisoner or his counsel. The statute does not bar the evidentiary hearing petitioner seeks on his juror bias and prosecutorial misconduct claims, but bars a hearing on his Brady claim because he "failed to

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