By Burt Rose
In Grant v. Lockett, 2013 WL 828491 C.A.3 (Pa.), March 07, 2013, the Third Circuit reversed the denial of federal habeas relief due to ineffective assistance of trial counsel in failing to bring out that the key prosecution witness was on parole at time of trial. The Court rejected the state court and Commonwealth argument that there was no prejudice to the Appellant because there was no proof of any deal between the prosecution and this witness regarding his parole status. On this point, Chief Judge McKee wrote the following:
To show prejudice, the PCRA Court appears to have required Grant to introduce evidence that Moore had a special deal with, or was treated favorably by, the Commonwealth in exchange for his cooperation. Since no such evidence was introduced in the PCRA proceedings, the court concluded that the record did not support Grant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. We are aware of no requirement that a defendant must introduce evidence of favorable treatment in return for testifying before the witness’s subjective motivation for bias becomes relevant. The state court’s imposition of such a requirement was an unreasonable application of Strickland.
Judge McKee noted that even if there was no evidence of any quid pro quobetween Moore and the Commonwealth, it is the fact that Moore had a strong reason to lie, and to testify in a manner that would help the prosecutor, in the hopes of getting favorable treatment from the Commonwealth, that established “the potential bias that would have been extremely compelling impeachment evidence.”
In a footnote, the Court stated: “The poison lurks in the bias that can arise from the witness’s subjective state of mind, regardless of whether the witness’s belief arose from an actual agreement with, or representation of, the prosecutor.”
Finally, the Court stressed that the ADA had repeatedly argued to the jury that Moore “had no reason to lie”.