Are Affidavits Enough? - Actual Innocence & Equitable Tolling

Evidence of actual innocence as a gateway to equitable tolling of a habeas petition is discussed in the unpublished opinion, Turner v. Romanowski, No. 07-2352 (available here). Petitioner sought equitable tolling of a time-barred petition through an actual innocence claim, pursuant to Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298 (1995), submitting a number of affidavits from friends, witnesses, and co-defendants. Relying on the district court’s merit review of the actual innocence claim, the Sixth Circuit found the affidavits contained “insubstantial factual allegations.” The opinion sets forth an in-depth analysis of the affidavits presented in support of actual innocence.

The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of the § 2254 habeas petition, but on alternative grounds than the district court. Below, the district court had dismissed the habeas petition on its merits, declining to rule on the State’s motion to dismiss the petition as time-barred. The district court did not hold an evidentiary hearing – either on procedural default or the substantive claims. The Sixth Circuit found the petition time-barred and that Turner’s actual innocence claim is not sufficient to warrant equitable tolling. The opinion affirms the district court’s decision not to hold an evidentiary hearing regarding procedural default, and the petition is dismissed.

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