The Hunt - Chapter 8: Juries will break your heart
But AEDPA will kick you in the crotch.
This is Chapter 8 in The Hunt, our ongoing serial. Read Chapter 7 here.
At the intersection of the Contoocook and Merrimack Rivers, there’s a statue honoring a woman for her part in the massacre of an Abenaki extended family in April of 1697. Hannah Duston1 killed two adult men, two adult women, and six children, removed their scalps as proof, wrapped them in a scrap of linen, and petitioned the government for her statutory reward of fifty pounds per head.2
The statue depicts a white woman with a George Washington face and a George Madison booty,3 in a torn nightgown, hair half-back, chin raised, defiant, with an ax in her right hand and a cluster of scalps in her left.
It’s a fairly brutal monument to callous, disproportionate revenge. But there are worse.
Like the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, AEDPA, hastily passed and signed into law a year after the Oklahoma City Bombing, AEDPA effectively prevents state prisoners from challenging their convictions in federal court, except under extraordinarily limited circumstances, with rigid deadlines and high bars to review.
AEDPA was designed to deal with the perceived problem of endless appeals, delaying the execution of the justly condemned, or even, perhaps, precluding the state from enacting its revenge based on some technicality4, by making habeas corpus – a common-law writ that serves a backstop against unlawful imprisonment – about as unavailable as it can be without obliterating the remedy entirely.
One of the ways it does this is with arbitrary deadlines, which are difficult to calculate, and nearly impossible to meet.
Ryan Madden was a victim of these deadlines.
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Two days in Ventura County
On February 2, 2005, Niloufar Zadeh was working at a candy and gift store in Oak Park, California. A person she’d later describe as a “young boy,” wearing dark clothing and a black ball cap, walked in. The boy walked up to the counter and asked questions about a jewelry display, then showed a gun. Ms. Zadeh gave him the cash from the register, about $400.
When police showed Ms. Zadeh a photo lineup about a week later, she identified eighteen-year-old Ryan Madden as the “young boy,” although later she’d testify that the person she remembered was skinnier, strawberry blond, and had more acne. She’d also admit that she wasn’t sure that Ryan Madden was the one who robbed her, although she thought she’d picked the right photograph.
The next evening, Michael Garfinkel was using an ATM, parked with the engine running and headlights on nearby. He noticed someone approach from the parking lot, and became nervous. As he tried to return to his car, he heard the person say “drop your wallet.” Mr. Garfinkel threw his wallet, and fled.
Mr. Garfinkel’s credit card was used at a gas station, a few moments later, by two men. The clerk reported that the man who used the credit card was wearing a camouflage jacket and ball cap, and the man with him was wearing a jean t-shirt. The clerk identified Mr. Madden as the one in the t-shirt, and another individual, James Hartley, was the one in the camouflage jacket.
Mr. Garfinkel told the police his robber wore a trucker hat, a camouflage jacket with a yellow patch, and dark pants. He had light hair, no mustache or beard, but was not clean shaven. Mr. Garfinkel, like Ms. Zadeh, would later be shown a photo lineup. Like Ms. Zadeh, he’d identify Ryan Madden, but testify in court that Mr. Madden looked different at the time of the crime – that he was shorter, skinnier, and his face was “clearer.”
At trial, a witness testified that Ryan Madden was asleep in a mobile home in Pacific Palisades from 9:00 in the morning until sunset on the day of February 2, 2005. Mr. Madden’s attorney attempted to defend on the basis of mistaken identification, specifically, that it had been Mr. Hartley, not Mr. Madden, that wore a camouflage jacket and robbed Mr. Garfinkel.
Mr. Madden’s attorney offered expert testimony on the unreliability of eyewitness identification. The prosecution, however, had live witnesses – and grainy videotape.
Juries are wise. Juries are important. They’re the foundation of our criminal justice system, and the hearts blood of civil litigation. But sometimes, twelve ordinary citizens doing their duty in the utmost good faith, will break your fucking heart.
The jury convicted Mr. Madden of one count of second degree robbery and one count of first degree robbery. They found he’d used a handgun in the commission of both crimes.
How to count to three hundred and sixty-four…
The verdict came in on November 20, 2006. Mr. Madden was sentenced to fifteen years in state prison on January 30, 2007. Mr. Madden appealed, and the California Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction on August 26, 2008. The appellate decision was deemed final on September 25, 2008, and Mr. Madden’s right to appeal to the California Supreme Court expired eleven days later, on October 6, 2008.
AEDPA requires habeas petitions to be filed after the prisoner has exhausted all routes of direct review, but within a year of the date the prisoner’s conviction is final. The one year period is tolled5 while the prisoner pursues some – but not all – appeals.
Ryan Madden filed state habeas petitions on February 8, 2008 (California Court of Appeal); November 10, 2009 (California Supreme Court); May 26, 2011 (California Court of Appeal) August 4, 2011 (California Court of Appeal); September 4, 2011 (California Court of Appeal); January 3, 2012 (California Supreme Court).
Mr. Madden filed his one federal habeas petition on June 28, 2011. It was dismissed with prejudice6 on October 22, 2013. As time barred. By four years. His petition needed to be filed on or before October 6, 2009.7
None – not one – of his state habeas petitions “counted” for tolling purposes.
But even the thoroughly procedurally screwed have a single, shining hope. Actual innocence.
If a prisoner can demonstrate that they are actually innocent, by means of new evidence not available at trial, a federal court can review their conviction notwithstanding the expiration of the one-year-ish statute of limitations.
And for Ryan’s proof of actual innocence, his family pinned their hopes on Gary Robertson.
Hannah Duston is portrayed as having been motivated by the death of her six-day-old infant, “Martha,” at the hands of the Abenaki, a detail contained only in the narrative of Cotton Mather as having excused the deaths from a religious perspective.
There are reasons to doubt this. Her husband made no mention of the death of her infant in his petition to the general court, nor did Samuel Sewall record this detail in the diary entry he made, reflecting his meeting with Mrs. Duston, although he did record the name of the Abenaki man who was Mrs. Duston’s primary captor, the frequency with which he prayed, and in what language.
And holy fuck if you know a woman who’s ten days post-partum, try and see if she has the energy to walk for three days, kill ten people, then hike five days south, meet two judges and attend an eight-hour church service.
As a married woman had no legal status, she received nothing; her husband received twenty-five pounds.
No fucking idea what I mean by this. I haven’t seen the statue from the back.
The technicality, of course, usually being something in the bill of rights. Or actual innocence.
Tolled means suspended, subject to restarting. Essentially the clock stops and restarts where it left off.
AEDPA also restricts most prisoners to a single petition in federal court. “Second or successive” petitions must meet a higher standard of review.
“With prejudice” means “forever and always, not coming back, ever.”