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By the terms of its opening clause, 28 U.S.C.S. § 2254(e)(2) (Supp. III 1994) applies only to prisoners who have failed to develop the factual basis of a claim in state court proceedings. If the prisoner has failed to develop the facts, an evidentiary hearing cannot be granted unless the prisoner's case meets the other conditions of the statute.
After Petitioner Michael Wayne Williams was convicted of two capital murders and other crimes, he was sentenced to death. The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed on direct appeal and later dismissed Williams’ state habeas corpus petition. He then sought federal habeas relief, requesting, among other things, an evidentiary hearing on three constitutional claims, which he had been unable to develop in the state-court proceedings. Those claims were that (1) the prosecution had violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 10 L. Ed. 2d 215, 83 S. Ct. 1194, in failing to disclose a report of a pretrial psychiatric examination of Jeffrey Cruse, Williams’ accomplice and the Commonwealth's main witness against Williams; (2) the trial was rendered unfair by the seating of a juror who at voir dire had not revealed possible sources of bias; and (3) a prosecutor committed misconduct in failing to reveal his knowledge of the juror's possible bias. The District Court granted an evidentiary hearing on, inter alia, the latter two claims, but denied a hearing on the Brady claim. Before any hearing could be held, however, the Fourth Circuit granted the Commonwealth's requests for an emergency stay and for a writ of mandamus and prohibition, which were based on the argument that an evidentiary hearing was prohibited by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2), as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). On remand, the District Court vacated its order granting an evidentiary hearing and dismissed the petition, having determined petitioner could not satisfy § 2254(e)(2)'s requirements. In affirming, the Fourth Circuit agreed with Williams’ argument that the statute would not apply if he had exercised diligence in state court, but held, among other things, that he had not been diligent and so had "failed to develop the factual basis of [his three] claims in State court," § 2254(e)(2). The court concluded that Williams could not satisfy the statute's conditions for excusing his failure to develop the facts and held him barred from receiving an evidentiary hearing.
Have Williams "failed to develop" factual basis for claim in state court, so as to bar evidentiary hearing under 28 USCS 2254(e)(2), absent lack of diligence or some greater fault?
The Court stayed Williams’ execution and granted certiorari to decide whether 28 U.S.C.S. § 2254(e)(2) (Supp. III 1994) precluded Williams from receiving an evidentiary hearing on his claims. The Court held that a failure to develop the factual basis of a claim was not established unless there was lack of diligence, or some greater fault, attributable to Williams or Williams’ counsel. The Court found lack of diligence to preserve his Brady claim but no lack of diligence with regard to his two other claims.