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Osborne v. Hall

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

August 12, 2019

JOSEPH EUGENE OSBORNE, Petitioner - Appellant,
v.
PELICIA HALL, COMMISSIONER, MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Respondent - Appellee.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi

          Before SMITH, WIENER, and ELROD, Circuit Judges.

          JENNIFER WALKER ELROD, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Joseph Eugene Osborne appeals the dismissal of his federal habeas petition. Because the district court did not err in its determination that the petition was time-barred, we AFFIRM.

         I.

         In 2004, Osborne was tried in Mississippi state court for the murder of his girlfriend's five-year-old son. During the trial, Dr. Steven Hayne testified as a forensic pathologist on behalf of the State, using autopsy data and a plaster cast of the child's face to explain that a large hand, probably a male's, had suffocated the child. Osborne was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. His conviction was affirmed on direct review. Osborne v. State, 942 So.2d 193 (Miss. Ct. App. 2006), cert. denied, 942 So.2d 164 (Miss. 2006).

         In the years following Osborne's conviction, Dr. Hayne became the subject of public criticism for his work as an expert witness. Multiple newspaper and magazine articles published from 2006 to 2008 detailed Dr. Hayne's lack of qualifications, the large number of autopsies he performed, his potentially unethical business relationship with the State, and his scientifically questionable testimony. In 2007, a justice on the Supreme Court of Mississippi expressed concerns about Dr. Hayne's qualifications in a published opinion. See Edmonds v. State, 955 So.2d 787, 802-03 (Miss. 2007) (Diaz, J., concurring). In 2008, the Innocence Project wrote a letter to the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure, complaining that Dr. Hayne was unqualified and had provided false autopsy reports and testimony in a variety of cases. Around that time, the Innocence Project also issued multiple press releases discussing Dr. Hayne's business relationship with the State, his lack of qualifications, and other alleged misconduct.

         In response to the 2008 letter, Dr. Hayne filed a defamation lawsuit against the Innocence Project. The Innocence Project conducted extensive discovery, culminating in a deposition of Dr. Hayne in which more evidence came to light supporting the earlier allegations that were made in the media coverage, the Innocence Project's letter, and the other publicly available documents. According to Osborne, the deposition transcript was confidential until May 25, 2012, when it became available to the public.

         Osborne filed a state habeas application on November 14, 2012, challenging his murder conviction based on the information that was in Dr. Hayne's deposition. The Supreme Court of Mississippi denied relief on May 29, 2013, in part because Osborne's application was time-barred. Osborne filed a motion for reconsideration, which the Supreme Court of Mississippi denied on June 21, 2013.

         Osborne then filed a federal habeas petition in the Southern District of Mississippi on December 17, 2013. His federal petition raised three claims: (1) that the State violated Napue v. Illinois, 360 U.S. 264 (1959), by relying on false evidence provided by Dr. Hayne; (2) that the State violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by withholding material evidence regarding Dr. Hayne; and (3) that Osborne was denied his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation. The State filed a motion to dismiss, contending that Osborne had not alleged a constitutional violation and that his petition was time-barred. The district court agreed that the factual predicate for the claim could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence more than a year before he filed his petition, and the petition was therefore dismissed as untimely. Osborne appealed, and this court granted him a certificate of appealability on the issue of whether "the factual predicate for his claims could not have been discovered earlier through the exercise of due diligence."

         II.

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA)[1]imposes a one-year limitations period on federal habeas petitions filed by state prisoners. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Relevant here, that limitations period begins running from the later of "the date on which the [state court] judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review" or "the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence." Id. §§ 2244(d)(1)(A), (D). The one-year period is tolled for "[t]he time during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending." Id. § 2244(d)(2).

         We review the dismissal of a habeas petition as time-barred under AEDPA de novo. Starns v. Andrews, ...


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