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Name: Earp v. Ornoski
Case #: 03-99005
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 09/08/2005

A petitioner in a capital case was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on claims of prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel. At trial, the petitioner was convicted of murder after his third-party culpability defense failed. After trial, the petitioner sought a new trial based on evidence from a jailhouse informant. The informant had told the defense that he had heard the third party make incriminating statements, but the informant recanted after threats by the prosecutor and a sheriff’s deputy. Petitioner’s state habeas petition was supported by declarations from the informant, but the petition was denied without opinion at the state level. The federal district court found the jailhouse informant to be inherently not credible. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the petitioner was entitled to an evidentiary hearing. The court held that the petitioner had alleged facts which, if proven true, might entitle him to relief on his claims of prosecutorial misconduct in intimidating a post-trial witness to prevent him from testifying in support of a new trial motion. The court held that the petitioner had not had a full and fair opportunity to develop the facts supporting this and other claims, and remanded for an evidentiary hearing. The court also held that in finding no conflict of interest arising from trial counsel’s intimate relationship with and brief marriage to the petitioner, the state court had not ruled in a manner that was either contrary to or an unreasonable application of established federal law, because the Supreme Court has only ruled on conflict of interest cases involving multiple, concurrent representation.