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September 3, 2010

Split Sixth Circuit rejects habeas appeal for arson defendant serving LWOP

Michigan does not have the death penalty, and thus nobody need worry about whether the defendant who lost his habeas appeal in Babick v. Berghuis, No. 08-1376 (6th Cir. Sept. 3, 2010) (available here), will be wrongfully executed.  Ironically, though, I suspect the very fact that the defendant in Babick is not facing execution could mean nobody (other than the dissenting judge) will worry much about the defendant at all.  Here is the start of the majority opinion in Babick:

At 2 a.m. on September 9, 1995, a house burned down in Battle Creek, Michigan, within minutes after Andrew Babick, Jr. left it.  Two young boys died in the blaze.  A jury in Michigan state court later convicted Babick of one count of arson and two counts of first-degree felony murder.  The state trial court sentenced Babick to two terms of life imprisonment without possibility of parole.  Babick argues here, as he did in the district court, that his convictions were tainted by ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct.  But Congress has made clear that there are limits to our power to grant habeas relief; and Babick’s claims, for the reasons stated below, lie beyond them.  We therefore affirm the district court’s denial of his petition.

Here is the start of the dissent in Babick:

An egregious mistake has been made in this case. The petitioner, Babick, got convicted of arson on the basis of pure “junk science” in a case the local District Attorney in Battle Creek, Michigan, refused even to bring1 and Magistrate Judge Ellen Carmody below would have reversed in a writ of habeas corpus.  District Judge Wendell Miles reversed Judge Carmody, and we now have before us this strange junk science case brought for undisclosed reasons by an Assistant Attorney General of the State instead of the local District Attorney.  I agree with the local D.A. and Judge Carmody that the case should never have been prosecuted.  The evidence of arson is based on expert testimony inconsistent with the clear standards set out in the bible of arson forensic science, The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations 921 (2004 and 1995 eds.).  The case has gotten this far through a combination of the state’s refusal to provide the defense with an arson expert, and defense counsel’s failure to understand fully and explain persuasively the need for such an expert, and the consequent failure of judges and jurors along the way to recognize that the scientific evidence on which the jury based its verdict is bogus.

September 3, 2010 at 11:15 AM | Permalink

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Comments

I care.

Posted by: claudio giusti, italia | Sep 3, 2010 12:16:15 PM

"...But Congress has made clear that there are limits to our power to grant habeas relief; and Babick’s claims, for the reasons stated below, lie beyond them."

Some co-equal branch, the judiciary. Pathetic.

Posted by: John K | Sep 4, 2010 9:35:39 AM

there are people who care your just not one of them.... I care and so do many others...

Posted by: N/A | Feb 3, 2011 9:41:01 AM

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