Long v. Hooks

Decision Date24 August 2020
Docket NumberNo. 18-6980,18-6980
Citation972 F.3d 442
Parties Ronnie Wallace LONG, Petitioner - Appellant, v. Erik A. HOOKS, Secretary, NC Dep't of Public Safety, Respondent – Appellee. Thomas Albright, Professor and Director, Vision Center Laboratory, Conrad T. Prebys Chair in Vision Research, Salk Institute for Biological Studies; Valena Elizabeth Beety, Professor of Law, West Virginia University School of Law; Barbara E. Bierer, MD, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Dr. C. Michael Bowers, Clinical Associate Professor, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, University of Southern California; Arturo Casadevall, MD, PhD, Chair, Molecular Microbiology & Immunology, Alfred & Jill Sommer Professor and Chair, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, Johns Hopkins University; Jessica Gabel Cino, Associate Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Georgia State University School of Law; Simon A. Cole, Professor, Department of Criminology, Law & Society, University of California, Irvine; M. Bonner Denton, Galileo Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Geosciences, The University of Arizona; Shari Seidman Diamond, Howard J. Trienens Professor of Law, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law; Dr. Rachel Dioso-Villa, Senior Lecturer, School of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Griffith University; Jules Epstein, Professor of Law, Director of Advocacy Programs, Temple University Beasley School of Law; David L. Faigman, Chancellor and Dean, John F. Digardi Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California Hastings College of the Law; Lisa S. Faigman, Professor, University of California Hastings College of the Law; Nita A. Farahany, Professor of Law & Philosophy, Duke University School of Law; Brandon L. Garrett, L. Neil Williams Professor of Law, Duke University School of Law; Bruce Green, Louis Stein Chair of Law, Director, Stein Center for Law and Ethics, Fordham University School of Law; Lisa Kern Griffin, Carroll-Simon Professor of Law, Duke University School of Law; Edward J. Imwinkelried, Edward L. Barrett, Jr. Professor of Law Emeritus, UC Davis School of Law ; Innocence Project, Inc.; Eisha Jain, Assistant Professor of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law; Dr. David Korn, Professor of Pathology, Harvard Medical School; Jason Kreag, Associate Professor of Law, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law; Daniel S. Medwed, University Distinguished Professor of Law and Criminal Justice, Northeastern University; Jennifer L. Mnookin, Dean, David G. Price & Dallas P. Price Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law ; John Monahan, PhD, Shannon Distinguished Professor of Law, Professor of Psychology, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, University of Virginia School of Law; Alan Morrison, Lerner Family Associate Dean for Public Interest & Public Service, George Washington University Law School; Robert P. Mosteller, J. Dickson Phillips Distinguished Professor of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law; Erin Murphy, Professor of Law, NYU School of Law; D. Michael Risinger, John J. Gibbons Professor of Law Emeritus, Seton Hall University School of Law; Michael Saks, Regents' Professor, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University; Nicholas Scurich, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Psychological Science, Department of Criminology, Law & Society, University of California, Irvine; George Sensabaugh, Professor of the Graduate School, Professor Emeritus of Forensic and Biomedical Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley; Dan Simon, Richard L. and Maria B. Crutcher Professor of Law & Psychology, Gould School of Law, Department of Psychology, University of Southern California; J.H. Pate Skene, JD, PhD, Associate Research Professor of Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center; Clifford Spiegelman, Distinguished Professor of Statistics and University Distinguished Professor, Department of Statistics, Texas A&M University; Colin Starger, Associate Professor, University of Baltimore School of Law; Hal Stern, Chancellor's Professor, Department of Statistics, Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, University of California, Irvine; William A. Tobin, Principal, Forensic Engineering International; James L. Wayman, PhD, Fieee, Fiet, Office of Research, San Jose State University; Ellen Yaroshefsky, Howard Lichtenstein Professor of Legal Ethics, Director, Monroe Freedman Institute for the Study of Legal Ethics, Maurice A. Deane School of Law, Hofstra University; Sandy Zabell, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor of Statistics and Mathematics, Northwestern University, Amici Supporting Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

ARGUED: Jamie Theodore Lau, DUKE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW, Durham, North Carolina, for Petitioner. Phillip Anthony Rubin, NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Respondent. ON BRIEF: Theresa A. Newman, DUKE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW, Durham, North Carolina; G. Christopher Olson, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant. Joshua H. Stein, Attorney General, Clarence Joe DelForge, III, Special Deputy Attorney General, NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee. Karen A. Newirth, THE INNOCENCE PROJECT, INC., New York, New York; Breon S. Peace, Matthew Aglialoro, Willam Segal, CLEARY GOTTLIEB STEEN & HAMILTON LLP, New York, New York, for Amicus The Innocence Project, Inc. Brandon L. Garrett, L. Neil Williams Professor of Law, DUKE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW, Durham, North Carolina; Mark D. Harris, Adam W. Deitch, PROSKAUER ROSE LLP, New York, New York, for Amici Curiae.



Vacated and remanded with instructions by published opinion. Judge Thacker wrote the opinion, in which Chief Judge Gregory and Judges Motz, King, Keenan, Wynn, Diaz, Floyd, and Harris joined. Judge Wynn wrote a concurring opinion, in which Judges Thacker and Harris joined. Judge Richardson wrote a dissenting opinion, in which Judges Wilkinson, Niemeyer, Agee, Quattlebaum, and Rushing joined.

THACKER, Circuit Judge:

For 44 years Ronnie Wallace Long ("Petitioner") has been in prison for a rape and burglary that he has consistently maintained he did not commit. At his 1976 trial, the State of North Carolina (the "State") asked the jury to rely on the "perfect honesty" of the police officers in charge of investigating the crime. J.A. 576.1 However, from the time of Petitioner's conviction until now, a trickle of posttrial disclosures has unearthed a troubling and striking pattern of deliberate police suppression of material evidence, in violation of Petitioner's due process rights pursuant to Brady v. Maryland , 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963). This suppressed, material evidence includes lab test results demonstrating that Petitioner was not linked to the crime scene in any way; a medical authorization demonstrating sperm taken from the victim was turned over to the police and never seen again; and most recently, 43 latent fingerprints lifted from the scene, none of which matched Petitioner.

The Superior Court in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, denied Petitioner's Motion for Appropriate Relief ("MAR") (hereinafter the "MAR Court"). Specifically, the MAR Court concluded that the cumulative effect of the withheld Brady evidence would have had no impact on Petitioner's trial. After exhausting state remedies, Petitioner then filed a federal habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (the "Petition"). The district court dismissed the Petition, concluding that the MAR Court's decision did not involve "an unreasonable application of" clearly established federal law. J.A. 1657 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) ).

We disagree. The MAR Court's analysis subjected Petitioner to an enhanced burden, unreasonably applied Supreme Court law, and was objectively unreasonable. For these reasons, and as explained more fully below, we vacate the district court's dismissal of the Petition. The district court left unaddressed the issue of whether the Petition can survive the threshold requirements set forth in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). Thus, we remand to the district court to permit consideration of this question in the first instance and to permit further discovery if requested by Petitioner.

A.The Burglary and Rape

Sarah Judson Bost, a 54 year old widow, was attacked in her Concord, North Carolina home on the evening of April 25, 1976, between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m. The perpetrator grabbed Ms. Bost from behind as she stepped from her kitchen into her den on the first floor of her home. With a knife to Ms. Bost's throat, the perpetrator first demanded money, and when Ms. Bost found none in her purse, he proceeded to drag her to the foot of the stairs, strip off her clothing, and rape her. The perpetrator pushed Ms. Bost's head down and to the side and told her, "[D]on't look at my face." J.A. 204. Ms. Bost clawed at the man's leather jacket, pressing so hard that her fingernails were "nearly bent backwards." Id. at 295. After 10 to 12 minutes, Ms. Bost's telephone rang, causing the perpetrator to run out the front door.

Scared the assailant might come back, Ms. Bost ran naked to her neighbor's home, and the neighbor called the police and an ambulance. Ms. Bost was transported to the local hospital, where she was examined by Dr. Lance Monroe, a gynecologist, who collected vaginal fluid samples. Also at the hospital, Ms. Bost talked to two Concord Police Department ("CPD") officers, Detective David Taylor and Lieutenant George Vogler. The officers showed Ms. Bost a photo array of 13 black men "age group twenty to thirty,"2 J.A. 307, but she could not identify any of them as her...

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21 cases
  • Juniper v. Hamilton
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
    • 29 Marzo 2021
    ...is impeachment, whether the impeachment goes to the heart of the prosecution's case or to collateral matters. See Long v. Hooks , 972 F.3d 442, 462 (4th Cir. 2020), as amended (Aug. 26, 2020) ("[T]he rule is not that only unassailable evidence must be disclosed to the defense. Rather, it is......
  • Allen v. Stephan
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • 26 Julio 2022
    ...Supreme Court"; or (ii) "based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented." Long v. Hooks , 972 F.3d 442, 457–58 (4th Cir. 2020) (en banc) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) ). A state court's decision is "contrary to" clearly established federal law under § ......
  • Johnson v. Balt. Police Dep't
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • 30 Septiembre 2022
    ...but undisclosed evidence.'” Long v. Hooks, 972 F.3d 442, 462 (4th Cir. 2020) (quoting Kyles, 514 U.S. at 434) (emphasis and alterations in Long). But, the “Constitution is not every time the government fails or chooses not to disclose evidence that might prove helpful to the defense.'” Blan......
  • In re Jackson
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit
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    ...precedent, petition including previously unavailable Brady claim would not be second or successive); Long v. Hooks , 972 F.3d 442, 486–88 (4th Cir. 2020) (en banc) (Wynn, J., concurring) (collecting cases).First, the "implications for habeas practice" favor treating petitions raising previo......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Review Proceedings
    • United States
    • Georgetown Law Journal No. 110-Annual Review, August 2022
    • 1 Agosto 2022
    ...testimony that prejudiced defendant); Haskell v. Superintendent Greene SCI, 866 F.3d 139, 152 (3d Cir. 2017) (same); Long v. Hooks, 972 F.3d 442, 465-68 (4th Cir. 2020) (due process violated because prosecutor suppressed cumulatively exculpatory evidence); Floyd v. Vannoy, 894 F.3d 143, 162......

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