Joseph Amrine was convicted of the 1985 murder of fellow inmate, Gary Barber. At trial, the state relied primarily on the testimony of three other inmates: Randy Ferguson, Terry Russell, and Jerry Poe. Ferguson and Poe both claimed to have witnessed Amrine stab Barber. Russell testified he knew of hostile feelings between Barber and Amrine and heard Amrine threaten Barber a week earlier. During a state post-conviction hearing, both Ferguson and Russell recanted their trial testimony, and explained how the prosecution and correctional officers intimidated them into giving false testimony. The district court denied federal habeas relief and the request for an evidentiary hearing, finding insufficient evidence of actual innocence with Poe’s testimony remaining undisputed. After Amrine filed an appeal, his new counsel located and interviewed Poe, obtaining an affidavit in which Poe recanted his testimony as well.

Schlup, Evidentiary Hearing on New Evidence of Actual Innocence: Amrine sought a remand because new evidence of his innocence was discovered after the district court denied his habeas petition. Pursuant to Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298 (1995), the 8th Circuit granted relief, noting that Amrine’s new evidence related to the basis of the district court’s denial of his innocence claim.  The court opined that the three recantations, if reliable, would leave no evidence implicating Amrine in the murder, and would almost certainly establish his innocence. Thus, an evidentiary hearing was required to determine if the evidence presented was new, reliable, and met the Schlup gateway standard for consideration of his barred constitutional claims. 128 F.3d at 1230. 

On remand, the district court denied Amrine’s Schlup claim on the basis that only Poe’s testimony was “new evidence” and his recantation was unreliable.