Finch v. McKoy (P)

In 1976, a jury convicted the habeas petitioner of first-degree murder, and he was ultimately sentenced to life in prison. The present record meets the exacting standard for the actual innocence gateway to consideration of his constitutional claim.

No physical evidence implicated the petitioner at trial, and new evidence casts doubt on the integrity of the police lineups where the petitioner was identified as the perpetrator, as well as on eyewitness and law enforcement testimony. In lineups, expert testimony indicates that the coat and hat the petitioner wore may have cued the identifying witness based on his apparel rather than on the witnesses’ original memory of the perpetrator’s physical characteristics.

At trial, the eyewitness testified that the petitioner shot the victim with a sawed-off shotgun. But new evidence demonstrates that it was a pistol, not a shotgun, that killed the victim. Further new evidence indicates that shells recovered from the crime scene can’t be matched with the shotgun shell found in the petitioner’s car. This new evidence not only undercuts the state’s physical evidence but also discredits the eyewitness’s reliability. Finally, new evidence also suggests that a key law enforcement witness worked with the prosecution to encourage false testimony.

Reversed and remanded.

Finch v. McKoy (P), No. 17-6518, Jan. 25, 2019. 4th Cir. (Gregory) from EDNC at Raleigh (Dever).



Categories: 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Opinions, Published

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