Pizzuto v. Blades

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 03-08-2012
  • Case #: 11-70623
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gould for the Court; Circuit Judge Rawlinson; Circuit Judge Fletcher dissenting.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(2), a second or successive habeas petition, including petitioners sentenced to death, the petitioner must show by clear and convincing evidence that, but for constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder could have found the applicant guilty of the underlying offense.

Pizzuto was convicted of, among other things, aggravated and felony murder. Pizzuto was sentenced to death for the murder of two people. Pizzuto’s appealed and his convictions were upheld. Pizzuto filed state post-convictions and federal habeas petitions that were denied. In the current case, Pizzuto filed a second motion for federal habeas petition under 28 USC 2244(b)(2) claiming prosecutorial misconduct, judicial bias, actual innocence, cumulative error, and inadequate state post-conviction relief based on evidence previously unavailable. The Ninth Circuit held that the judicial bias claim was procedurally barred for failure to make the claim in his state post-conviction proceeding. The Court, in addressing the other claims, held that in order to meet the stringent standard of § 2244(b)(2)(B) Pizzuto must show that he is actually innocent, which he failed to do. The Court found that if all of Pizzuto’s allegations were true, in light of the evidence as a whole, Pizzuto failed to show that no reasonable factfinder could have found him guilty. The Court found that the prosecution relied on other testimony that Pizzuto did not claim was tarnished. Finally, the Court held that § 2242(b)(2) applies to the imposition of death, and that the trial court judge found multiple aggravating factors. The Court found that Pizzuto was unable to prove actual innocence with regard to the first aggravating factor, the murder of two persons. MOTION DENIED.

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