The following pending petitions involve issues of interest to capital habeas litigators: 

 Davis v. United States, 16-1190 (cert. petition filed March 30, 2017)
 (case below: 845 F.3d 282 (7th Cir.))

Question presented:  A criminal defendant has a Fifth and Sixth Amendment right to present witnesses in his defense.  That right must yield, however, to a witness' valid assertion of his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.  The courts of appeals have struggled for almost three decades to determine the circumstances under which due process requires the prosecution to immunize a defense witness who asserts his Fifth Amendment privilege.  That struggle has produced a clear, deeply entrenched circuit split.

   The question presented is: Whether the government violates a criminal defendant's right to due process when it immunizes a significant prosecution witness but refuses to immunize a directly contradictory defense witness solely on the ground that the prosecutor disbelieves the defense witness' proffered testimony.

 Click here to view the certiorari petition.  

 LaCaze v. Louisiana, 16-1125 (cert. petition filed March 16, 2017)
(case below: 208 So.3d 856 (La.))

Questions presented:    
Questions Presented One And Two

   In McDonough Power Equipment, Inc. v. Greenwood, 464 U.S. 548 (1984), this Court announced a new test for obtaining a new trial in cases where a juror has failed to disclose a material fact at voir dire: "[A] party must first demonstrate that a juror failed to answer honestly a material question on voir dire, and then further show that a correct response would have provided a valid basis for a challenge for cause."  Id. at 556.  The district court found that Petitioner had been his right to an impartial jury under this test.  The Supreme Court of Louisiana disagreed, joining the narrow end of a deep split on how to interpret McDonough.

   The first question presented is:

Under McDonough does "a valid basis for a challenge for cause" require a showing that a correct response would have subjected the juror to mandatory or per se disqualification, or does it require a showing that a hypothetical reasonable judge would have granted a motion to dismiss the juror for cause?

   The second question presented is:

Does the McDonough test apply only in cases of deliberate dishonesty or does it apply also in cases of misleading omissions?

Question Presented Three

   This Court has repeatedly recognized that to "establish an enforceable and workable framework" governing judicial recusal, the Court "asks not whether a judge harbors an actual, subjective bias, but instead whether, as an objective matter, the average judge in his position is likely to be neutral, or whether there is an unconstitutional potential for bias."  Williams v. Pennsylvania, 136 S.Ct. 1899, 1905 (2016) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).  Here, the judge who presided over Petitioner's first-degree murder trial was questioned, before and during Petitioner's trial, in police investigation pertaining to the release of the potential murder weapon to Petitioner's co-defendant through a court order signed by the judge.  The judge denied ordering the release of the weapon and indicated that his signature had been forged.  At Petitioner's trial, the judge did not disclose his participation in the investigation or the dispute related to the potential murder weapon.

   The third question presented is:

Does a trial judge's involvement as a witness in a police investigation before and during trial, and his failure to even disclose it, create an "unconstitutional potential for bias"?  Williams, 136 S.Ct. at 1905.

Click here to view LaCaze's certiorari petition.