June 21, 2012 Source : http://thecabin.net
LITTLE ROCK — A federal appeals panel Thursday partially reversed a federal judge’s denial of the appeal of an Arkansas death-row inmate.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis sent Ray Dansby’s appeal back to the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Arkansas for new proceedings.
Dansby was convicted of two counts of capital murder and sentenced to die for the Aug. 24, 1992, fatal shooting of his ex-wife, Brenda Dansby, and her boyfriend, Ronnie Kimble, at Brenda Dansby’s home in El Dorado. Witnesses testified they saw Dansby shoot both victims.
A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court upheld the dismissal of some of Ray Dansby’s claims on appeal Thursday but reversed the dismissal of two claims. The panel did not address the merits of those claims but said the federal judge’s reasons for dismissing them were erroneous.
Among the witnesses who testified at Dansby’s trial was his former cellmate, Larry McDuffie. The trial judge allowed Dansby’s lawyer to ask McDuffie if prosecutors had offered him leniency in exchange for his testimony, but the judge did not allow other questions about McDuffie’s past dealings with prosecutors.
Dansby argued on appeal that he should have been allowed to try to show that McDuffie was biased by his past dealings with prosecutors. A federal district judge dismissed that claim, saying Dansby had failed to raise the point in state court before raising it in federal court.
In its opinion Thursday, the 8th Circuit said Dansby specifically referenced the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment in a brief to the Arkansas Supreme Court, so the district judge’s ruling that Dansby had not previously raised the claim was in error.
The 8th Circuit also overturned a ruling by the district judge that Dansby’s claim of prosecutorial misconduct — he alleged that prosecutors withheld evidence regarding the credibility of McDuffie — was procedurally faulty. The appeals court said the district judge reached this conclusion without allowing either side to present arguments on the issue.
“The parties were not afforded adequate notice and opportunity to be heard on the issue of procedural default,” Judge Steven Colloton wrote in the 8th Circuit’s opinion.