Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, February 13, 2009

Tompkins: No Certificate of Appealability for Death-Row Inmate

In Tompkins v. Sec., Dep’t of Corrections, No. 09-10022 (Feb. 9, 2009), the Court denied habeas relief to a Florida inmate sentenced to death for a 25-year old murder.
Tompkins argued that his latest § 2254 motion should not be considered "second or successive," and should therefore not require a certificate of appealability, because Panetti v. Quaterman’s 2007 holding that a death-row inmate’s claim that he was incompetent for execution did not trigger the "second or successive" bar, because this claim was not ripe until the inmate was subject to execution. Tompkins sought to extent Panetti to situations, like his, where a habeas claim rested on evidence that was newly discovered after trial but before execution. The Court rejected this argument. The Court noted that the statute expressly provides for "newly discovered" evidence claims. Consequently, Tompkins did not qualify for a certificate of appealability
The Court also rejected the argument that Tompkins’ claim that his execution was cruel and unusual because the length of his stay on death row. The Court noted that Circuit precedent squarely foreclosed such an Eight Amendment claim. Therefore no certificate of appealability could issue on this claim too.