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Capital Habeas Petition Not "Second or Successive"

By FindLaw Staff on June 24, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In Magwood v. Patterson, No. 09-158, a capital habeas matter, the Court reversed the Eleventh Circuit's reversal of the grant of petitioner's petition, holding that, because petitioner's habeas application challenged a new judgment for the first time, it was not "second or succcessive" under 28 U.S.C. section 2244(b).

As the Court wrote:  "Petitioner Billy Joe Magwood was sentenced to death for murdering a sheriff. After the Alabama courts denied relief on direct appeal and in postconviction proceedings, Magwood filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus in Federal District Court, challenging both his conviction and his sentence. The District Court conditionally granted the writ as to the sentence, mandating that Magwood either be released or resentenced. The state trial court conducted a new sentencing hearing and again sentenced Magwood to death. Magwood filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court challenging this new sentence. The District Court once again conditionally granted the writ, finding constitutional defects in the new sentence. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed, holding in relevant part that Magwood's challenge to his new death sentence was an unreviewable "second or successive" challenge under 28 U. S. C. §2244(b) because he could have mounted the same challenge to his original death sentence. We granted certiorari, and now reverse. Because Magwood's habeas application challenges a new judgment for the first time, it is not "second or successive" under §2244(b)."

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