C&G Achieves Precedent-Setting Ruling in Third Circuit
July 23, 2018
Cohen & Gresser helped achieve a precedent-setting ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Jerry Reeves v. Fayette SCI, et al. (No. 17-1043), that clears the way for wrongfully convicted defendants to seek federal habeas relief where their trial counsel failed to present credible evidence of their actual innocence. There is a split among federal circuit courts over what type of “new evidence” of actual innocence is required before courts can consider the merits of untimely habeas corpus petitions that allege constitutional violations. Some circuits consider evidence only if it is newly discovered after trial, while others permit evidence available at the time of the trial that defense counsel failed to present. The Third Circuit had not weighed in on the issue. Cohen & Gresser filed a pro bono amici curiae brief on behalf of the Innocence Network and the Innocence Project of Pennsylvania urging the Third Circuit to adopt the broader newly presented standard, because the narrower newly discovered evidence standard would cut off a pathway to exoneration for innocent individuals whose attorneys failed to present exculpatory evidence at trial. In a precedential decision on July 23, 2018, the Third Circuit agreed, vacating the denial of Mr. Reeves’ habeas petition and instructing the district court on remand to consider his newly presented exculpatory evidence.