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All Writs Act Provides Authority for Medical-Imaging Transport Order for Condemned Ohio Prisoner Challenging His Conviction; Certiorari Granted

by David M. Reutter

On August 26, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed with a district court that an Ohio state prisoner must be transported to a medical center for neurological imaging that may bolster his challenge to his capital murder conviction.

The prisoner, Raymond Twyford, is being held by the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) at Chillicothe Correctional Institution (CCI), after being convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to death in 1993. He filed a federal habeas corpus petition in 2003 that raised 22 claims. The matter was stayed while Twyford pursued his case on direct appeal, which was denied.

After the matter returned to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, the Defendant moved in 2008 to dismiss the petition. That motion was granted in part in 2017, after which Twyford requested leave in November 2018 to file ex parte and under seal a motion to be transported for medical testing. For the sake of “transparency,” the Court denied that motion.

Twyford then moved again to be transported, this time specifying it was for neurological imaging because “he may have neurological problems due to childhood physical abuse, alcohol and drug use, and a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head from a suicide attempt at age thirteen, which cost him his right eye and left shrapnel remaining in his head.”

In support of this motion, Dr. Douglas Scharre submitted a letter stating that he had examined Twyford and concluded a CT scan and an FDG-PET scan were necessary to fully evaluate him. Thus Twyford asserted the neurological testing was necessary because it could support five of his habeas claims at both the guilt and mitigation stages of the trial. The district court granted the motion under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651.

The Defendant appealed, arguing that the district court did not have authority under the All Writs Act (AWA) to issue the transport order because that order is inconsistent with statutes and the common-law understanding of habeas corpus.

The Sixth Circuit, allowing that AWA is not an independent source of jurisdiction, said nevertheless that it serves to fill “the interstices of federal judicial power when those gaps threatened to thwart the otherwise proper exercise of federal courts’ jurisdiction.” See: Pa. Bureau of Corr. v. United States Marshals Serv., 474 U.S. 34, 106 S. Ct. 355 (1985).

The district court’s exercise of its authority under AWA was properly made, the Court continued, in aid of its jurisdiction over Twyford’s habeas petition, quite unlike making state prison officials available for interviews in support of a clemency application, which the Court held was not proper in Baze v. Parker, 632 F.3d 338 (6th Cir. 2011).

Thus the district court’s order was affirmed and Shoop, the warden at CCI, was ordered by the Court to transport Twyford for medical imaging “in aid of its habeas jurisdiction.” In her dissent, Judge Alice M. Batchelder said that the Court’s majority had erred in allowing the use of AWA to order the testing because it will “circumvent the Supreme Court’s admonition against the admission of new evidence at the federal habeas review stage” made in Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 131 S. Ct. 1388, 179 L. Ed. 2d 557 (2011). See: Twyford v. Shoop, 11 F.4th 518 (6th Cir. 2021).

On October 4, 2021, the office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) filed for a writ of certiorari to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which granted the petition on January 14, 2022, the same day it also granted Twyford’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis. Twyford is represented in his suit by Alan C. Rossman and Sharon A. Hicks with the Public Defender for the Northern District of Ohio’s Capital Habeas Unit, as well as Chagrin Falls attorney Michael J. Benza. See: Shoop v. Twyford, 142 S. Ct. 857 (2022). 

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Related legal cases

Shoop v. Twyford

Twyford v. Shoop

Baze v. Parker

Pa. Bureau of Corr. v. United States Marshals Serv.,