Media for McCleskey v. ZantAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 31, 1990 in McCleskey v. Zant
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 16, 1991 in McCleskey v. Zant
Anthony M. Kennedy:
The writ strikes its finality and multiple habeas proceedings burdens scarce federal judicial resources and may give litigants the incentive to manipulate claims.
Of course, the writ overrides all these considerations as essential as they are to the rule of law, when a petitioner raises a meritorious claim in a proper manner in a federal habeas petition.
Cause and prejudice standard for the doctrines of procedural default and, by today's decision, abuse of the writ, define this dimension of procedural regularity.
Applying the standards to the facts of the case before us, we hold that McCleskey lacked cause failing to raise his Massiah claim in his first federal petition.
And so, he abused the writ by deferring the claim until his second habeas action.
In reaching this conclusion, we assume that McCleskey did not at the time of his first federal petition know about certain evidence relating to the Massiah claim.
This lack of knowledge does not establish that McCleskey had cause for failure to raise the Massiah claim in his first federal action however.
But the evidence he did possess did not present him from raising the claim.
Indeed, the very evidence on which he places primary reliance was discovered after he raised the Massiah claim in the second federal action.
The narrow miscarriage of justice exception to the cause requirement is of no avail to McCleskey.
He cannot demonstrate that the alleged Massiah violation caused the conviction of an innocent person because the Evans' statement that he now seeks to embrace confirms his guilt.
Justice Marshall files a dissenting opinion in which Justices Blackmun and Stevens join.