From the NCIP….
This case has been covered previously here. Yesterday, the Northern California Innocence Prorjct receive the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Michael Seng of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The Magistrate recommended that the habeas petition be granted on three of the seven claims: ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failure to present a fire expert at petitioner’s retrial, ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failure to call additional defense witnesses—after promising the jury in opening statements that he would do so—and cumulative error. The court did not grant the petition on the ground that false evidence of arson was admitted (all of the “scientific” evidence has been conceded by the state to be unfounded), but noted that it had already found [in its ruling on Schlup—see earlier posting] that if that unreliable evidence had not been admitted at trial, Souliotes would have been acquitted. The Magistrate really presents a bullet-proof analysis under Strickland. Now, the AG has two weeks to file objections before the District Court either adopts, rejects, or revises this recommendation.
Notably, the Magistrate recommended that Mr. Souliotes, who is now 71 years old, be released within 30 days if the State does not decide to retry him. Such a retrial, in light of the stipulated lack of evidence of arson, is pretty much unthinkable.