United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
KARL F. VINSON, Petitioner,
THOMAS MACKIE, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO
SEAL AND DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION TO STRIKE
L. LUDINGTON, United States District Judge.
Karl Vinson, presently confined at the Carson City
Correctional Facility in Carson City, Michigan, has filed a
petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. In his application, filed through his attorneys,
David A. Moran and Imran J. Syed of the Michigan Innocence
Clinic, petitioner challenges his conviction for first-degree
criminal sexual conduct (CSC), Mich. Comp. Laws §
750.520(b)(1)(a)(victim under 13 years of age), and breaking
and entering a building with the intent to commit a felony
(CSC) therein, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.110.
April 13, 2016 Respondent filed a motion to seal
Petitioner's psychological records from prison.
See ECF No. 7. Then, on April 19, 2016 Petitioner
has moved to strike the Respondent's answer on the ground
that it contains references to Petitioner's prison
psychological report. See ECF No. 8. In the report,
Petitioner admits to sexually molesting the victim in this
case on other occasions.
motion to strike references to the report will be addressed
first. Petitioner claims that references to his
post-conviction confessions are barred by the Supreme Court
case of Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170 (2011),
in which the United States Supreme Court held that habeas
review under 28 U.S.C. §2254(d) is “limited to the
record that was before the state court that adjudicated the
claim on the merits.” Id. at 181. However, the
Pinholster Court indicated that it was not
completely barring parties from presenting evidence during a
federal habeas action that had not been previously presented
to the state courts. For example, federal habeas courts still
have the discretion to consider new evidence “when
deciding claims that were not adjudicated on the merits in
state court.” Id. at 186; see also
Ballinger v. Prelesnik, 709 F.3d 558, 562 (6th Cir.
neither the Supreme Court nor the Sixth Circuit have yet
resolved the issue, lower courts that have addressed the
question have unanimously held that Pinholster's
limitation on new evidence does not apply to claims of actual
innocence, especially when it is used to excuse a procedural
default of another claim. See, e.g., Clemmons v. Warden,
Lebanon Correctional Institution, No. 11-465, 2012 WL
4811122, at *8 (S.D. Ohio, Oct. 10, 2012)
(“Pinholster does not by its own terms apply
to the actual innocence exception to . . . procedural default
. . . . The premise of the actual innocence exception is that
the habeas petition is presenting new evidence not considered
by the state courts.”); Pettus-Brown v. Warden,
Correctional Reception Center, No. 14-292, 2015 WL
422557, at *1 (S.D. Ohio, Feb. 2, 2015) (“A claim of
actual innocence offered to excuse procedural default is not
a substantive claim for habeas relief but a
‘gateway' claim and therefore not subject to the
Pinholster restrictions.”); Washington v.
Beard, 07-3462, 2012 WL 1033526, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Mar.
28, 2012) (finding that Pinholster did not bar a
federal court from considering new evidence supporting a
freestanding actual innocence claim that had not been decided
on the merits in the state courts or a gateway actual
innocence claim); High v. Nevens, No. 11-00891, 2013
WL 1292694, at *9 (D. Nev. Mar. 29, 2013) (“The rule in
Pinholster of course has no bearing whatsoever on .
. . non-merits factual development, under Schlup or
otherwise.”); Hazel v. Warden, Chillicothe
Correctional Institution, No. 13-332, 2014 WL 4076152,
at *25 (S.D. Ohio, Aug. 15, 2014) (“Pinholster
does not prevent the Court from considering newly tendered
evidence on a claim of actual innocence.”).
alternative, Petitioner argues that references to his
post-conviction admissions to sexually molesting the victim
should be stricken pursuant to Rule 12(f) because they are an
“immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.”
This argument is without merit. Because Petitioner has raised
a claim of actual innocence, evidence that he admitted to
sexually molesting the victim on other occasions is relevant
to adjudicating that claim. See Fed. R. Evid. 413(a)
(“In a criminal case in which a defendant is accused of
child molestation, the court may admit evidence that the
defendant committed any other child molestation.”).
Petitioner's motion to strike will be denied.
determined that Petitioner's motion to strike is without
merit, Respondent's motion to seal will be addressed. A
federal court has the power to seal records when the
interests of privacy outweigh the public's right of
access to those records. See Ashworth v. Bagley, 351
F.Supp.2d 786, 789 (N.D. Ohio 2005) (internal citation
omitted). Because the psychological records contain
confidential information, Respondent's motion to seal
will be granted.
it is ORDERED that Respondent's motion to seal, ...