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Floyd v. Vannoy

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 8, 2017

JOHN D. FLOYD
v.
DARREL VANNOY, WARDEN

         SECTION “R” (3)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          SARAH S. VANCE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         John D. Floyd was convicted of second degree murder in Louisiana state court in January, 1982 and sentenced to life in prison. He now petitions this Court for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Magistrate Judge Knowles issued a Report and Recommendation, recommending that Floyd's petition be granted on grounds that the State withheld material evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and that the Louisiana courts' contrary decision was an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.

         Having reviewed the parties' briefing, the Magistrate Judge's Report, and the parties' objections to the Report and related responses, the Court approves the Report and adopts it as its opinion with the following additional discussion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court has already given a full procedural and factual background of this case.[1]In short, William Hines, Jr. and Rodney Robinson were murdered in November 1980, approximately three days and one mile apart in downtown New Orleans.[2] The victims, both gay men, [3] were stabbed to death while lying naked in bed.[4] Evidence recovered from both scenes suggested that in each case the perpetrator was a welcome visitor, [5] and that both victims had shared a drink with their killer.[6]

         On January 19, 1981, petitioner John D. Floyd confessed to murdering both Hines and Robinson.[7] Floyd was tried for both murders in the same proceeding in Louisiana state court in January 1982.[8] The State's case as to both victims rested entirely on Floyd's own inculpatory statements. Floyd did not only confess to both murders, but witnesses also testified that Floyd made incriminating statements regarding the murders to acquaintances in New Orleans' French Quarter.

         Bar owner Steven Edwards testified that around the time of Hines' murder, Edwards spotted Floyd trying to enter Edwards's bar.[9] According to Edwards, he said to Floyd:

“Johnny, you know you're barred from the fucking bar.” [Edwards] said, “You can't go in there. I don't want you in there because you cause problems.” And [Floyd] said, “Don't come fucking with me. I already wasted one person.” . . . and [Edwards] said, “Who? Bill Hines?” And [Floyd] said, “Yeah, on Governor Nichol[l]s.” And [Edwards] said, “I don't give a shit. Get away from here.” And [Floyd] turned and left.[10]

         As to Robinson, Floyd's acquaintance and former sexual partner Byron Gene Reed, testified that Floyd once threatened to “take care of [Reed] like he did the one at the Fairmont.”[11] Another acquaintance, Harold G. Griffin, testified that he encountered Floyd the day after the Robinson murder.[12] According to Griffin, Floyd asked Griffin to walk with him to the Detoxification Center at Charity Hospital.[13] During the walk, Floyd said something to the effect “that he heard that perhaps going to the Detox Center would be the next best thing to keep from being held accountable for doing something wrong.”[14]Later on the same walk, Floyd asked Griffin if Griffin “heard of the stabbing at the Fairmont, ” and Griffin said “No.”[15]

         At the conclusion of his joint bench trial, Floyd was convicted of second-degree murder of William Hines, but acquitted of second-degree murder of Rodney Robinson. State v. Floyd, 435 So.2d 992, 992 (La. 1983). Despite Floyd's confession and other statements, he was acquitted of the Robinson murder based on evidence suggesting that Robinson was killed by an African-American man with Type A blood. Id. at 994. Floyd is white and has Type B blood. Id. Floyd's conviction became final when the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the trial court on June 27, 1983. Id. at 992.

         Floyd first filed an application for habeas corpus relief in state court on March 2, 2006, twenty-three years after the Louisiana Supreme Court finalized his conviction.[16]On February, 192010, following an evidentiary hearing, the Criminal District Court for the Parish of Orleans denied Floyd's petition from the bench.[17] The presiding judge offered no written reasons, but briefly explained his decision on the record:

Based upon the evidence and testimony presented during this hearing, the Court finds that the Defendant in this matter, Mr. John Floyd, has failed to meet his burden of proof required in his Post-Conviction Application. Accordingly, sir, at this time, your application is denied. We'll note the Defense's objections, and let the Appellate process begin. Good luck.[18]

         Without assigning additional reasons, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied Floyd's writ application by 4-3 vote. Floyd v. Cain, 62 So.3d 57 (La. 2011).[19]

         At the conclusion of his post-conviction proceedings in state court, Floyd promptly petitioned this Court for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.[20] To overcome the untimeliness of his petition, Floyd argued that, in light of newly discovered evidence exculpating him of the murders of both Robinson and Hines, he is actually innocent of the murder of Hines. See McQuiggin v. Perkins, 133 S.Ct. 1924, 1928 (2013) (“[A]ctual innocence, if proved, serves as a gateway through which a petitioner may pass whether the impediment is a procedural bar . . . or, as in this case, expiration of the statute of limitations.”). While Floyd's case was pending before this Court, the State offered Floyd a negotiated settlement, including a possible Alford plea.[21] Floyd rejected the offer.[22]

         On September 14, 2016, this Court-considering both old and new evidence[23]- found that Floyd had preponderantly established that no reasonable juror would find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the murder of William Hines.[24] The Court summarized its reasoning:

[T]he Court finds that it is unlikely that any reasonable juror weighing the evidence in this case would vote to convict Floyd of the murder of William Hines.
Police uncovered no physical evidence and no eyewitness testimony linking Floyd to the scene of the crime. No weapon or other inculpatory item was found in Floyd's possession, and no coherent motive has ever been suggested. Rather, Floyd's conviction was based entirely on his own statements: a signed confession and an alleged barroom boast. But Floyd did not only confess to and boast about killing Hines; Floyd confessed to and boasted about killing Robinson as well. And the considerable forensic evidence found on the Robinson scene excludes the possibility that Floyd killed Robinson as described in his confession and strongly suggests that Floyd did not kill Robinson at all.
Physical evidence recovered on the scene of the Robinson murder suggests to a near certainty that Robinson was stabbed to death by an African-American man with type A blood shortly after Robinson and the man had sex. The evidence therefore excludes Floyd, who is white and has type B blood. Semen produced by a type A male was found both in Robinson's body and on a tissue beside Robinson's hotel room bed. A cap stained with Type O blood-matching Robinson-was found near Robinson's body. The cap contained hairs from an African-American male, and the hairs did not match Robinson, who was African American. Fingerprints taken from the scene, and not revealed until years after trial, do not match Floyd's. Hairs- also new evidence-found in Robinson's bed, on the semen-stained tissue, and around Robinson's hotel room were produced by two different African-American men. Finally, an eyewitness saw an African-American male running from the scene with one hand in his pocket and looking over his shoulder as if “he believed someone was following him.”
Floyd's confession to the Robinson murder, which the evidence before the Court strongly suggests Floyd did not commit, is strikingly similar to his confession to the Hines murder, and the two confessions were obtained together. The persuasive force of the two confessions are linked: if Floyd was willing-for whatever reason-to confess falsely to killing Robinson, then it is significantly more likely that he falsely confessed to the Hines murder too. The credibility of Floyd's confession is further undermined by new evidence supporting Floyd's consistent allegation that [New Orleans Police Department] officers beat him to coerce his confession, and new evidence of Floyd's vulnerability to suggestion and limited mental capacity.
Floyd also presents further evidence of his innocence of the Hines murder. This evidence includes: 1) the striking similarity between the Robinson and Hines murder, which suggests that the same African-American male with type A blood committed both murders; 2) new evidence that, contrary to the lead detective's trial testimony, Hines had a preference for African-American men; 3) African-American hair found in Hines' bed; and 4) fingerprints found at the scene of Hines' death that match neither Hines nor Floyd.

Floyd v. Cain, No. 11-2819, 2016 WL 4799093, at *2-3 (E.D. La. Sept. 14, 2016) (citations omitted). Accordingly, the Court found that Floyd had satisfied the standard necessary to overcome the untimeliness of his habeas petition and remanded Floyd's petition to the Magistrate Judge for an evaluation on the merits. Id.

         Floyd's original habeas petition asserted three bases for relief: the State suppressed material, favorable evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); the State destroyed evidence in violation of Arizona v. Youngblood, 488 U.S. 51 (1988); and Floyd is entitled to habeas relief because he is actually innocent.[25] In support of his Brady claim, Floyd points to the following evidence as allegedly withheld: (1) fingerprint comparison results from the Hines scene; (2) fingerprint comparison results from the Robinson scene and Robinson's car; (3) a witness statement concerning Hines' racial preference in sexual partners; (4) evidence that police identified other potential suspects; (5) an alleged expert opinion, developed by the State's coroner, that the perpetrator of the murder possessed medical knowledge, and (6) evidence that detectives bought Floyd more than one beer before interrogating him.[26]

         In his Second Supplemental Report and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Knowles recommended that Floyd's Youngblood and actual innocence claims be denied, but that his Brady claim be granted.[27] In doing so, Magistrate Judge Knowles found that fingerprint comparison results pertaining to both the Hines and Robinson murders were material, withheld from the defense, and favorable to Floyd, and that the Louisiana courts' contrary finding constituted an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.[28] Because Magistrate Judge Knowles found that Floyd satisfied his burden on the strength of the fingerprint evidence alone, he did not decide whether the other allegedly withheld evidence could support a Brady claim.[29]

         Both Floyd and the State objected to the Report and Recommendation. Floyd's objection advances two arguments: (1) the Court need not defer to the state court's habeas ruling because the state court failed to consider important evidence; and (2) the Court could find that Floyd prevailed on his Brady claim based on the other evidence not considered by Magistrate Judge Knowles.[30] The State objects primarily to Magistrate Judge Knowles' conclusion that Floyd's fingerprint evidence constitutes Brady material.[31]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Court applies de novo review to the parties' objections to the Report and Recommendation. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b)(3). The Court is, however, limited to plain error review of any part of the report not subject to a proper objection. Starns v. Andrews, 524 F.3d 612, 617 (5th Cir. 2008).

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 defines “[t]he statutory authority of federal courts to issue habeas corpus relief for persons in state custody.” Premo v. Moore, 562 U.S. 115, 120 (2011). Under AEDPA, a federal habeas court may not grant a state prisoner's application for a writ of habeas corpus with respect to claims adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the state court adjudication resulted in a decision that (1) was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). A decision is contrary to clearly established federal law if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law, or if the state court decides a case differently than the Supreme Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000). “A state court decision involves an unreasonable application of federal law if it ‘correctly identifies the governing legal rule but applies it unreasonably to the facts of a particular prisoner's case.'” Cobb v. Thaler, 682 F.3d 364, 373 (5th Cir. 2012) (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 407-08). This demanding standard is “met only ‘in cases where there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with [Supreme Court] precedents.'” Id. (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011)). The state court's findings of fact are entitled to a presumption of correctness, and they can be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         Section 2254(d) applies with equal force to a summary denial. Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 187 (2011). Where, as here, state courts have offered only summary denials of the petitioner's claim, the prisoner “can satisfy the ‘unreasonable application' prong of § 2254(d)(1) only by showing that ‘there was no reasonable basis' for the” state court's decision. Id. at 188 (quoting Richter, 562 U.S. at 98). In considering whether any reasonable basis could support the state court's decision, the Court “must determine what arguments or theories could have supported the state court's decision” and then analyze those theories under section 2254(d). Id.

         As noted, the Magistrate Judges' Report and Recommendation concluded that the state courts' denial of Floyd's habeas petition constituted an unreasonable application of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and its progeny. Under Brady, “suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.” 373 U.S. at 87. Prosecutors must disclose material, favorable evidence “even if no request is made” by the defense, United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97, 107 (1976), and “the individual prosecutor has a duty to learn of any favorable evidence known to the others acting on the government's behalf in the case, including the police.” Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419, 437 (1995). To prevail on his Brady claim, Floyd “must show that (1) the prosecution suppressed evidence, (2) the evidence was favorable to the defense, and (3) the evidence was material to his guilt or punishment.” Mahler v. Kaylo, 537 F.3d 494, 500 (5th Cir. 2008).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Youngblood and Actual Innocence.

         Floyd did not object to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that his Youngblood and actual innocence claims be denied. The Court therefore reviews these conclusions for clear error. It finds none.

         Floyd's Youngblood claim fails because he asserts that evidence was destroyed after trial, rather than before. Such a claim is not cognizable on habeas review. See Morris v. Cain, 186 F.3d 581, 585 n.6 (5th Cir. 1999) (“[W]e must find constitutional error at the trial or direct review level in order to issue the writ.”); see also Ferguson v. Roper, 400 F.3d 635, 638 (8th Cir. 2005) (“Youngblood stated the applicable constitutional principle when potentially useful evidence is lost or destroyed before trial.” (emphasis in original)). As to actual innocence, the Fifth Circuit has expressly declined to recognize such a claim. See In re Swearingen, 556 F.3d 344, 348 (5th Cir. 2009) (“The Fifth Circuit does not recognize freestanding claims of actual innocence on federal habeas review.”). Because the Court finds no clear error in the Magistrate Judge's resolution of Floyd's Youngblood and actual innocence claims, these claims are denied.

         B. Brady

         Floyd alleges that the State withheld six types of evidence in violation of its Brady obligation. As noted, Magistrate Judge Knowles found that fingerprint comparison results pertaining to both the Hines and Robinson murders were material, withheld from the defense, and favorable to Floyd, and that the Louisiana courts' opposing conclusion constituted an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.[32] Reviewing the Magistrate Judge's findings de novo, the Court concludes that Floyd's evidence concerning fingerprint comparison results satisfies Floyd's burden as to each of Brady's three prongs. The Court also finds that John Rue Clegg's affidavit, which the Magistrate Judge did not consider, [33] is additional Brady material.[34] Floyd is therefore entitled to a new trial.

         1. The Fingerprint Evidence

         i. Fingerprints at the Hines Crime Scene

         Police found two used whiskey glasses in Hines' apartment, and several bottles of whiskey in Hines' kitchen.[35] Police lifted two partial prints from one of the whiskey bottles.[36] On September 29, 2008, Floyd's habeas counsel obtained copies of the NOPD Latent Print Unit's logbook and the envelope in which the prints were stored.[37] Regarding prints on the bottle, someone noted “NOT VICTIM” and “NOT JOHN FLOYD.”[38] NOPD was unable to recover prints from the two glasses.[39]

         ii. Fingerprints at the Robinson Crime Scene

         Police found fingerprints on two drinking glasses containing alcohol next to the bed in Robinson's hotel room.[40] Police also found fingerprints on the passenger side of Robinson's car and on a glass, a cup, and a whiskey bottle inside the vehicle.[41] Floyd's habeas counsel recovered the logbook and envelopes corresponding to these prints. According to notations in the logbook and on the envelope, all of the fingerprints on one of the glasses next to the bed belonged to Robinson.[42] Three of the fingerprints on the other glass were noted not to belong to Floyd, Robinson, or Robinson's friend David Hennessy.[43] The fingerprints from Robinson's car were similarly labeled, “NOT . . . DAVID HENNESSY, ” “NOT VICTIM, ” and “NOT JOHN FLOYD.”[44]

         2. The Fingerprint Comparison Results Were Withheld

         Neither party objected to Magistrate Judge Knowles' finding that NOPD did, in fact, analyze fingerprints found on both the Robinson and Hines scenes prior to Floyd's trial and this analysis excluded Floyd as a potential match.[45] The Court finds no clear error in this finding. The State disputes the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that the fingerprint comparison results were withheld. The State's objection fails for several reasons.

         First, the State did not advance this argument before the Magistrate Judge, and the argument is therefore waived. Warren v. Bank of Am., N.A., 566 F. App'x 379, 381 n.1 (5th Cir. 2014) (“[A] party who objects to the magistrate judge's report waives legal arguments not made in the first instance before the magistrate judge.”). In fact, in its initial briefing, the State conceded that “[t]he record supports Floyd's contention that neither the envelopes nor the results of any testing that may have been done on the lifted fingerprints were disclosed to the defense pretrial.”[46] The State's attempt to reinterpret this clear language is unavailing.[47]

         Second, even if the Court were to consider the State's new position, Floyd has met his burden to show that the fingerprint comparison results were withheld. In Floyd's state court habeas proceeding, attorneys for the State conceded that the fingerprint comparison results were not present in the District Attorney's file on Floyd's cases.[48] Floyd submits affidavits from four former assistant district attorneys who worked on his case.[49] All four support Floyd's assertion that the fingerprint comparison results were unknown to the prosecutors working the case, and were therefore never disclosed to Floyd's attorney.

         David J. Plavnicky, the State's trial attorney, reports “no recollection of ever seeing [the fingerprint envelopes] before or being aware of the information contained in them.”[50]Plavnicky further states that, to the best of his recollection, “non-matching prints would mostly not be reported to the District Attorney's office” and that “the absence of information on the fingerprint comparison from the District Attorney's Office's file on the case supports my recollection that I was unaware of the comparison information when I tried the case.”[51]

         In another affidavit, Kendall Green, who represented the State at Floyd's pre-trial hearings, attests to his belief that he saw the fingerprint analysis results for the first time in 2009.[52] Green continues:

In my experience it is highly unlikely that potentially exculpatory information could have been disclosed to the defense, yet not contained in the district attorney's file . . . . Overall, I am virtually certain that the fingerprint comparison results in this case were not disclosed to the defense by me, or apparently by anyone else.[53]

         Finally, Jack Peebles, who served as Assistant District Attorney at the hearing concerning Floyd's motion to suppress his confession, reports no recollection of the fingerprint comparison results and states: “If the fingerprint comparison results were not attorneys prosecuting the case were aware of their existence.”[54] Nancy Sharpe, Peebles' assistant during Floyd's pretrial hearing, also attests that she does not recall seeing the comparison results, and echoes her former colleagues by saying that “it is highly unlikely for information to be disclosed to the defense but not contained in the district attorney's file.”[55]

         To resist the conclusion that the fingerprint comparison results were withheld, the State points to statements made by Walter Sentenn, Floyd's defense attorney during trial and a subsequent hearing. At trial, Sentenn stated: “there is no evidence whatsoever that links [Floyd] in any way to the murders” and “save for incriminating statements . . . . [t]here is no other evidence whatsoever that is inculpatory-whatsoever, that is inculpatory as to Mr. Floyd.”[56] In support of Floyd's motion for new trial, Sentenn made a similar argument: “No fingerprints or other physical evidence taken from the scene of the Hines homicide point in any way to the presence of John Floyd at Bill Hines' apartment.”[57] The State contends that these statements show that Sentenn knew that Floyd's fingerprints had been compared to prints taken from the Hines and Robertson scenes, and that Floyd had been excluded as a match.

         The State's argument confuses evidence tending to exculpate Floyd with the mere absence of evidence tending to inculpate Floyd. In the State's quotations, Sentenn asserts that no evidence found at the scenes tends to inculpate Floyd. This is plainly different from an affirmative argument that the presence of unknown, third-party fingerprints on both scenes tends to exculpate Floyd. The quotes therefore do not support a finding that the State disclosed the fingerprint comparison results.

         On the contrary, the conspicuous absence of any affirmative argument based on fingerprint evidence supports, rather than undermines, Floyd's position. Sentenn argued in opening remarks:

[T]here are numerous pieces of evidence that would tend to link a different party to the crime, and those pieces of evidence will be brought out to the Court, including hair samples in both cases, which indicate that there was a Negro involved, as the Crime Lab indicates the hair is of Negro origin.[58]

         Similarly, immediately after saying that “[n]o fingerprints . . . point in any way to . . . John Floyd, ” Sentenn raised the affirmative exculpatory value of the hair evidence: “In fact, the only evidence introduced at trial was exculpatory as to John Floyd in that it indicated the presence of negroid hair in the bed of the victim wherein both he and the accused are caucasians. No reasonable explanation was proved at trial.”[59]

         Despite his stated strategy of highlighting evidence tending to “link a different party to the crime”-and his repeated reference to the similarly-probative hair evidence- a review of the trial transcript reveals that Sentenn never elicited testimony regarding NOPD's exclusion of Floyd from the fingerprints found on either scene. Former Assistant District Attorneys Plavnicky, [60] Green, [61] and Peebles[62] all assert that, based on their knowledge of Sentenn's practices, Sentenn would have raised the fingerprint comparison results at trial if he had been aware of them. The trial record therefore supports a finding that the fingerprint comparison results at issue were withheld.

         Lastly, the Court finds no merit to the State's novel suggestion that a prosecutor may withhold fingerprint comparison results that are favorable to the defense because a defendant could request access to the underlying prints and perform his own testing. The State cites no analogous authority, and the Court has identified none. Brady, of course, “does not obligate the State to furnish a defendant with exculpatory evidence that is fully available to the defendant through the exercise of reasonable diligence.” Cobb, 682 F.3d at 378 (quoting Kutzner v. Cockrell, 303 F.3d 333, 336 (5th Cir. 2002)). But the State's conception of reasonable diligence stretches the concept beyond its breaking point, and undermines “the Brady rule's purpose of ensuring a fair trial.” Matthew v. Johnson, 201 F.3d 353, 361 (5th Cir. 2000).

         For these reasons, the Court finds that the State has waived any argument that the fingerprint comparison results were disclosed to the defense. Further, even if the Court were to consider the State's argument, it would conclude that Floyd has met his burden to show by clear and convincing evidence that the fingerprint comparison results were withheld.

         3. The Fingerprint Comparison Results Are Favorable

         Favorable evidence “is evidence that ‘is exculpatory or impeaching.'” United States v. Stanford, 823 F.3d 814, 841 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting United States v. Barraza, 655 F.3d 375, 380 (5th Cir. 2011)). Exculpatory evidence is “[e]vidence tending to establish a criminal defendant's innocence.” Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014); see also Boyette v. Lefevre, 246 F.3d 76, 91 (2d Cir. 2001) (evidence which “could have helped the defense suggest an alternative perpetrator” was favorable); United States v. Slough, 22 F.Supp.3d 1, 8 (D.D.C. 2014) (“The meaning of the term ‘favorable' under Brady is not difficult to discern. It is any information in the possession of the government . . . that relates to guilt or punishment and that tends to help the defense bolstering the defense case or impeaching potential prosecution witnesses.”).

         In his report, Magistrate Judge Knowles found that “it can hardly be doubted that the fingerprint evidence was ‘favorable' to the defense.”[63] The State objects, and the Court therefore reviews this finding de novo. The Court considers the fingerprint comparison evidence from each scene in turn.

         i. The Hines Scene

         According to the Crime Scene Technician Report for the Hines scene, NOPD Evidence Technician Seuzeneau dusted several whiskey bottles found in Hines' kitchen for fingerprints.[64] Seuzeneau also dusted two “whiskey glass[es]”-one from Hines' kitchen table and one from his nightstand.[65] Seuzeneau lifted two “partial latent prints” from one of the whiskey bottles.[66] The other bottles, and the two glasses, yielded “neg[ative] results.”[67] The fingerprint result envelope corresponding to the two recovered prints describes them as “from Puglia's scotch whiskey bottle in kitchen.”[68] Notations on the envelopes and a related logbook, discovered by Floyd's habeas counsel in 2008, say “NOT VICTIM” and “NOT JOHN FLOYD.”[69]

         The Court finds that the fingerprint comparison results from the Hines scene are favorable to Floyd's defense, and that any contrary conclusion would be an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. As an initial matter, the Court notes that a fingerprint comparison result that excludes both the defendant and the victim from contributing a print recovered from the scene of a murder would, in most cases, be favorable to the defense for a simple reason: the result suggests that another person was at the scene. This other person is an obvious alternative suspect that the defense may point to as the true killer.

         Beyond this general observation, the Court finds that the test results withheld in this case are particularly favorable to the defense. First, Evidence Technician Seuzeneau selected a small number of items on the Hines scene to dust for prints, and these items were all related. This choice suggests that-of all the many surfaces in Hines' home- Seuzeneau or a superior believed it particularly likely that Hines' killer touched the whiskey bottles and glasses. Second, Detective John Dillman, lead detective on the Hines murder, believed that Hines shared a drink with his killer, and this theory was elicited at trial. In his testimony, Dillman pointed to the statement that “We were both drinking” as one of several details in Floyd's confession that matched the Hines murder scene as ...


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