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PURSELL v. HORN

February 1, 2002

ALAN PURSELL, PETITIONER
V.
MARTIN HORN, COMMISSIONER, PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; PHILIP L. JOHNSON, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION AT PITTSBURGH, AND JOSEPH P. MAZURKIEWICZ, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION AT ROCKVIEW, RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: D. Brooks Smith, Chief United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

II. EXHAUSTION

III. PROCEDURAL DEFAULT

A. The Procedural Bars in Question

B. When The Alleged Default Occured

C. Was the Waiver Rule Firmly Established Between 1982 and 1994?

D. Was the One Year Limitations Period Firmly Established in 1986?

E. Conclusion to Procedural Default

IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

V. PURSELL'S GUILT-PHASE CLAIMS

A. Trial Court's Refusal to Order Change of Venue

(1) Factual Background

(2) Legal Analysis

(a) Refusal to Presume Prejudice

(b) Refusal to Find Actual Prejudice

(3) Ineffective Assistance Claim

(4) Conclusion

B. Trial Court's Denial of Challenges For Cause

(1) Ineffective Assistance Claim

(a) Legal Background

(b) Challenges to Shank, Noble, Fink, and Gunther

(c) Challenges to Ott and Yaple

(d) Was Counsel Deficient In Failing to Raise Claims Concerning Ott and Yaple?

(2) Sixth Amendment Right to Impartial Jury

(3) Due Process Claim

(4) Trial Court's Grant of Commonwealth's Challenge for Cause

(5) Conclusion

C. Prosecution's Failure to Disclose Evidence of Other Suspect

(1) Factual Background

(2) Request for Evidentiary Hearing

(3) Brady Claim

(4) Ineffective Assistance Claim

(5) Conclusion

D. Prosecutorial Misconduct

(1) Claims Relating To Testimony of Officer Mark Krahe

(a) Pursell's Invocation of Right to Counsel

(b) Testimony About Pursell's Prior Criminal Record and Counsel's Withdrawl of Motion for Mistrial

(c) Krahe's Testimony About Conley's Accusation of Rape

(d) Krahe's Testimony That Pursell Was "Nervous"

(2) The Testimony of the Erie County District Attorney

(3) The Use of Prior Consistent Statements

(a) Factual Background

(b) Prosecutorial Misconduct Claim

(c) Ineffective Assistance Claim

(d) Conclusion

(4) Prosecutor's Remarks About Pursell's Appearance

(a) Factual Background

(b) Admission of Evidence in Case in Chief

(c) Prosecutor's Closing Remarks

(d) Conclusion

(5) Prosecutor's Reference to Personal Knowledge

(6) Prosecutor's Reference to Time of Death

(7) Cumulative Effect of Error

(a) What Errors Should Be Considered?

(b) Legal Analysis of Cumulative Claim

(c) Conclusion

E. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

(1) Counsel's Failure to Request a Jury Instruction on Good Character

(2) Counsel's Failure to Rehabilitate Dorothy Pursell

(3) Counsel's Failure to Object to Impeachment by Omission

(4) Counsel's Failure to Challenge Contention That Nearest Rock Was Two Hundred Feet From Victim

(5) Counsel's Failure to Impeach Diane Walters

(6) Counsel's Failure to Rebut Claim of Premeditation

(7) Claim Based on Counsel's Cumulative Errors

F. Challenge to Jury Instructions

(1) Jury Instruction on Malice

(2) Mandatory Presumption of Malice and Intent to Kill

(3) Ineffective Assistance Claim

(4) Conclusion

G. Pursell Represented Himself On His PCRA Appeal

(1) Background

(2) Claim is Barred By Teague

(3) Merits of Claim

(4) Conclusion

H. Challenge to Conduct of All Prior Counsel

I. Claim for Cumulative Trial Error

(1) Analyzing Claims for Cumulative Error

(2) The Errors

(3) Merits of the Claim

(4) Conclusion

J. Conclusion to Guilt-Phase Analysis

VI. PURSELL'S SENTENCING-PHASE CLAIMS

A. Counsel's Failure to Investigate and Introduce Mitigating Evidence

(1) Factual Background

(a) Pursell's Early Years

(b) Physical and Sexual Abuse

(c) Drug and Alcohol Abuse

(d) Psychological Impairments

(e) Kind, Loving, and Peaceful Person

(2) Expansion of the Record

(3) Legal Analysis

(a) Counsel was Deficient

(b) Counsel's Conduct Prejudiced Pursell

(4) Conclusion

B. The Trial Court's Instruction on the Meaning of Torture

(1) Factual Background

(2) Clearly Established Federal Law

(3) Unconstitutionality of the Instruction

(a) Especially Heinous, Attrocious, or Cruel Manifesting Exceptional Depravity

(b) Intention to Inflict Pain or Suffering

(c) Meaning of Torture Was a Moving Target

(4) Is Relief Required Under AEDPA?

(a) The Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Decision

(b) Unreasonable Application Prong

(5) Harmless Error Analysis

(6) Conclusion to Torture Challenge

VII. CONCLUSION

On January 26, 1982, a jury empaneled by the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, Pennsylvania convicted petitioner, Alan Pursell, of first degree murder in the death of thirteen year-old Christopher Brine and, in a separate proceeding, sentenced him to death. At issue today is Pursell's federal habeas corpus petition filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (1994 & Supp. 2001). Dkt. nos. 9 & 26. In this petition, Pursell claims that his trial and sentencing hearing were infected with constitutional error, and he requests either a new trial or, at a minimum, a new sentencing hearing. For the following reasons, I will grant this petition to the extent that it seeks a new sentencing hearing and deny it in all other respects.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On July 23, 1981 at approximately 6:30 p.m., thirteen year-old Christopher Brine left his home in Wesleyville, Pennsylvania, riding his bronze Columbia bicycle. (Tr. 1/19/82, at 101-04).*fn1 Less than twenty-four hours later, he was found dead along a wooded area in Lawrence Park Township. Id. at 57-61. He was naked, his face was drenched with blood, and a twenty-five foot long tree-limb lay across his throat. Id. at 74-75; 125-26; 134; Commonwealth v. Pursell, 495 A.2d 183, 186 (Pa. 1985) (Pursell-1). An autopsy revealed that Brine had sustained fifteen blows to the head with a rock, and had suffered a broken nose, internal hemorrhaging in the neck, and swollen eyes. Pursell-1, 495 A.2d at 186; see also (Tr. 1/20/82, at 172-77, 179). The ultimate cause of death, however, was asphyxiation as Brine's windpipe was crushed when he was strangled with the tree-limb. (Tr. 1/20/82, at 180).

Within days of the murder, the police began to piece together evidence that linked Alan Pursell to the crime. By the time that Pursell was tried for Brine's murder in January of 1982, the Commonwealth's case against him rested on four evidentiary pillars.

First, a pair of glasses was found at the murder scene. Id. at 133. An optometrist, Dr. Moody Perry, examined these glasses and determined that they were the same prescription and frame that he sold to Pursell a few months before the murder. (Tr. 1/20/82, at 218-20). According to Dr. Perry, the prescription was so rare that his office records revealed that he had written it only once in six years. Id. at 214 & 220. On the afternoon of July 24, 1981, hours after the murder took place, Pursell returned to Dr. Perry's office and ordered a new pair of glasses, explaining that his pair had been stolen. Id. at 226-28, 239, 254-55.

Second, a number of witnesses confirmed that Pursell lost his glasses on the very night that Brine was killed. On the night of the murder, Pursell was living with his mother in her trailer in Wesleyville, Pennsylvania. (Tr. 1/21/82, at 68-69). Almon Hall saw Pursell at approximately 9:00 or 9:30 p.m. on the night of the murder at Mrs. Pursell's trailer. Id. at 69-70. According to Hall, Pursell was not wearing any glasses, id. at 70-71, and he looked nervous. Id. at 73. Hall overheard Mrs. Pursell ask her son about his glasses, and Pursell said that he lost them in a fight. Id. at 71, 73. An hour later, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Pursell had a brief conversation with two boys who lived next to his mother's trailer, James Lynch and Thomas Jagta. Both boys noticed that Pursell was not wearing his glasses. Id. at 8, 26. When Lynch asked Pursell about his glasses, Pursell also told him that he lost them in a fight. Id. Pursell mentioned as well that he hit someone in the head with a brick during this fight. Id. 8-9, 26.

Third, Pursell made an incriminating statement to his friend, Diane Walters. On July 27, 1981, he and Walters were watching the television news when, out of the blue, Pursell asked if a person could be traced through his glasses. Id. at 57-58. At the time, only the police and the murderer himself could have known that a pair of glasses was found at the scene of the crime because the local news media had made no such report. (Tr. 1/20/82, at 269-71, 275); (Tr. 1/21/82, at 85-86).

Finally, a search of Pursell's trailer turned up a pair of brown shoes that contained several small drops of blood. Although Pursell and Brine had the same blood type, an analysis of the isoenzymes in the blood stains showed that they were inconsistent with Pursell's blood, but consistent with the blood chemistry of 5.5% of the population, including Brine. (Tr. 1/22/82, at 162, 171-72, 184-85).

Based on this and other evidence, Pursell was tried for the murder of Christopher Brine. At trial, he contested nearly all of the facts introduced against him.

First, he attacked the Commonwealth's theory that he lost his glasses while murdering Brine, introducing evidence to show that he lost them days before Brine's death. Two witnesses testified that they saw Pursell at the optometrist's office without his glasses on the afternoon of July 23, 1981, hours before the alleged murder took place. (Tr. 1/25/82, at 8-11, 163).*fn2 Pursell introduced testimony to show that his conversation with Lynch and Jagata took place on July 22, not July 23, (Tr. 1/22/82, at 230, 232), proving, according to Pursell, that he lost his glasses long before Brine's death. Finally, both Pursell and his mother testified that Pursell had lost his glasses days before the murder. (Tr. 1/25/82, at 20-24, 85-87).

Second, Pursell tried to refute the inference that Brine's blood was on his shoes. Kathy Sheehan, who had been living with Pursell shortly before the murder, testified that Pursell received those shoes from the Red Cross in April 1981. (Tr. 1/22/82, at 266-67). According to the trial testimony, the shoes contained blood spots on them when they came from the Red Cross. Id. at 268. Nevertheless, Pursell did not like the shoes, kept them at his mother's house, and wore them on only one occasion. Id. at 269-70, 279; see also (Tr. 1/25/82, at 20-21, 81-82).

Finally, Pursell offered an alibi for his whereabouts during the time of the murder. Pursell's mother testified that she was with her son throughout the night of July 23 and into the morning of July 24. Although Mrs. Pursell had a date on the night of July 23 with Almon Hall, she and Hall returned to the trailer around 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. where they found Pursell eating cereal. The three chatted until Hall left at approximately 11:00 p.m. (Tr. 1/25/82, at 31-35). Mrs. Pursell and her son then talked until 12:15 p.m. when she went to bed. Mrs. Pursell, who is a light sleeper, was up several times during the night and each time she saw her son asleep on the couch. Id. at 37-38.

The jury rejected Pursell's account, convicted him of first degree murder, and sentenced him to death. (Tr. 1/26/82, at 100, 151-53). On appeal, Pursell challenged his conviction and death sentence on numerous grounds. Dkt. no. 18, at 1978. In a five to two decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected Pursell's challenge and affirmed his conviction and death sentence. Pursell-1, 495 A.2d at 198.*fn3 Pursell's conviction became final on December 23, 1985.*fn4

Pursell subsequently filed various pleadings with the Court of Common Pleas and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, seeking relief under the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), 42 Pa. Cons.Stat.Ann. §§ 9541 et seq. Pursell's court-appointed counsel filed a PCRA petition ("counseled PCRA petition") that raised only three claims for relief. Commonwealth v. Pursell, 724 A.2d 293, 300 (Pa. 1999) (Pursell-2). In response, Pursell filed a motion requesting the appointment of new counsel and seeking leave to supplement the counseled PCRA petition. The trial court denied both motions and later, without opinion, denied the counseled PCRA petition on March 23, 1993. Id. Acting pro se, Pursell appealed the trial court's decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In that appeal, he raised the three claims put in his counseled PCRA petition and twenty-seven other claims. Id. Because the trial court had never issued an opinion in the matter, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court remanded the case so that the trial court could explain its March 23, 1993 order. This remand occurred on January 15, 1997. Id.

After the trial court issued its opinion, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court again took up Pursell's pro se appeal. Relying on the original briefs filed in 1994, id. at 2257-2488, the Supreme Court issued an opinion denying both Pursell's counseled and pro se petitions for relief. Pursell-2, 724 A.2d at 315.*fn6 First, the court held that most of Pursell's claims were waived because they were not raised at trial or on direct appeal. Id. at 302 n. 6, 303, 306. Second, although recognizing that Pursell could overcome his waiver by asserting an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, the court rejected Pursell's allegation that his counsel was ineffective for failing to raise certain claims in the PCRA petition. Id. at 304-313. Finally, the court reviewed the three claims raised in the counseled PCRA petition and denied relief on these claims on the merits. Id. at 314-315. The court issued its opinion in Pursell-2 on January 19, 1999. On April 5, 1999, it denied Pursell's request for reargument.

On May 12, 1999, Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Ridge signed a warrant for Pursell's execution. Within days, Pursell's lawyers entered their appearance on his behalf in federal court and filed a motion for stay of execution. Dkt. no. 1. On May 24, 1999, I granted the stay, dkt. no. 5, and subsequently entered an order setting a schedule for Pursell to file a petition for habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Dkt. no. 6. Pursell filed this petition, along with a memorandum of law, on September 15, 1999. Dkt. no. 9.

At the same time that he was seeking habeas relief in federal court, however, Pursell was still pursuing his remedies in the state courts. In fact, on June 4, 1999, he filed yet another PCRA petition ("second PCRA petition") with the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County.*fn7 Commonwealth v. Pursell, 749 A.2d 911, 912-13 (Pa. 2000) (Pursell-3).*fn8 Almost immediately, the trial court denied Pursell's request for relief. Id. at 913. Pursell appealed the trial court's decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court which affirmed on procedural grounds. In particular, the court explained that Pursell's petition was barred by the 1995 amendments to the PCRA. See 42 Pa. Cons.Stat.Ann. § 9545(b). Under these amendments, "[a]ny petition . . ., including a second or subsequent petition, shall be filed within one year of the date that judgment becomes final . . ." Id. § 9545(b)(1). Because Pursell's conviction became final in 1985, and he did not file the petition in question until 1999, the court held that his petition was time barred. Pursell-3, 749 A.2d at 219. It issued this opinion in Pursell-3 in April 2000.

After the conclusion of these state court proceedings, I ordered the parties to file new memoranda addressing all of the legal and factual issues in this case. At that time, Pursell raised eighteen claims for relief, including numerous sub-claims, and sought a new trial or, at a minimum, a new sentencing hearing. Dkt. no. 26. The Commonwealth addressed the merits of these claims, but vigorously maintained that the entire petition should be dismissed because it contained claims that were unexhausted in the Pennsylvania state courts. Additionally, the Commonwealth argued that a number of Pursell's claims were procedurally defaulted and, thus, unreviewable in federal court. Dkt. no. 28. It is to these procedural issues that I turn first.

II. EXHAUSTION

The federal habeas corpus statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, permits a federal court to entertain an application for habeas corpus relief from a state prisoner "only on the ground that he or she is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Although the writ of habeas corpus has been described as the "highest safeguard of liberty," Smith v. Bennett, 365 U.S. 708, 712 (1961), there are strict procedural limits on when and how it can be entertained by a federal court. One such limitation is known as the exhaustion requirement. As a general rule, a federal court cannot grant a writ of habeas corpus unless "the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b). This exhaustion requirement "ensures that state courts have the first opportunity to review federal constitutional challenges to state convictions and preserves the role of the state courts in protecting federally guaranteed rights." Evans v. Court of Common Pleas, Delaware County, Pa., 959 F.2d 1227, 1230 (3d Cir. 1992).
To satisfy the exhaustion requirement, a claim need not be actually decided by the state courts. Instead, a claim is exhausted if it was "fairly presented" to the state courts. Id. at 1231 (quoting Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275 (1971)). This merely requires that the federal claim is the "substantial equivalent" of the claim brought in state court. Id. As the Third Circuit has repeatedly explained, in deciding whether a claim was fairly presented, a district court should look to "the substance of the claim presented to the state courts, rather than its technical designation." Id. Even if the state court refuses to hear the claim presented because it is time-barred or waived, the claim is still exhausted as long as the state court is given the opportunity to address it. Bond v. Fulcomer, 864 F.2d 306, 309 (3d Cir. 1989) (holding that presentation of an untimely petition to the state's highest court satisfied the exhaustion requirement).
There is no doubt that Pursell has satisfied the exhaustion requirement in this case. Seventeen of his eighteen claims were presented, in almost verbatim fashion, to the state courts either on direct appeal, see Pursell-1, 495 A.2d at 183, or during one of his two petitions for post-conviction relief. See Pursell-2, 724 A.2d at 293; Pursell-3, 749 A.2d at 911. Although the Pennsylvania courts held that most of Pursell's claims were waived or time-barred, these claims were exhausted simply because they were presented to the courts for review. Bond, 864 F.2d at 309. The exhaustion doctrine requires nothing more.
Only one of Pursell's claims merits any discussion on the exhaustion issue. He asks this court to vacate his death sentence because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court conducted what he calls an "arbitrary proportionality review" that violated his rights under the United States Constitution. Dkt. no. 26, Claim 14, at 206. At the time of his conviction, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was statutorily required to conduct a proportionality review in all death penalty cases. See 42 Pa. Cons.Stat.Ann. § 9711(h)(3)(iii) (1985). Under this review, the Supreme Court had to vacate any death sentence if it was "excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases . . ." Id. In Pursell-1, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court performed this proportionality review and concluded that Pursell's sentence was not excessive or disproportionate in relation to the sentences of others convicted of first-degree murder. Pursell-1, 495 A.2d at 197-98. Today, Pursell challenges the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's proportionality review, calling it arbitrary and unconstitutional. Dkt. no. 26, at 206-220.
While Pursell did not explicitly raise this issue in state court, the state court nevertheless decided it in two ways. First, to affirm Pursell's conviction on direct review, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had to necessarily decide the question presented by Pursell in this case. Pursell-1, 495 A.2d at 197-98. Indeed the same statute that required the court to perform a proportionality review also stated that a death sentence could not be affirmed if it was "arbitrary." 42 Pa. Cons.Stat.Ann. § 9711(h)(3)(i). The Supreme Court clearly determined that the proportionality review in Pursell's case was not "arbitrary," as Pursell now claims, or it could not have affirmed his sentence. Second, in a recent decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court explained that it implicitly resolves all constitutional issues concerning the application of proportionality review when it performs that review on direct appeal. In Commonwealth v. Albrecht, 720 A.2d 693, 708 (Pa. 1998), the court confronted a challenge to its proportionality review that is identical to the one in the present case. It rejected the constitutional challenge with no discussion, stating only that the issue was "previously litigated" when it "fulfilled its statutory obligation to review [defendant's] sentence for proportionality and ruled against him." Id. The exhaustion doctrine simply does not require a litigant to present an issue that the state court has already decided.
Even if the exhaustion doctrine did require such an odd result, I would excuse Pursell's failure to exhaust this claim because exhaustion would be futile. The Third Circuit has explained that "`[f]utility' exists where . . . `a state's highest court has ruled unfavorably on a claim involving facts and issues materially identical to those undergirding a federal habeas petition and there is no plausible reason to believe that a replay will persuade the court to reverse its field.'" Lines v. Larkins, 208 F.3d 153, 162 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Allen v. Attorney General of Maine, 80 F.3d 569, 573 (1st Cir. 1996)); see also Lynce v. Mathis, 519 U.S. 433, 436 n. 4 (1997) (holding that "exhaustion would have been futile" because the Florida Supreme Court previously rejected the same claim in other cases and counsel for the state had "not suggested any reason why the Florida courts would have decided petitioner's case differently.").
Just such a situation is present in Pursell's case. Repeatedly over the past few years, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has rejected identical constitutional challenges to its proportionality review. In Commonwealth v. Gribble, 703 A.2d 426, 441 (Pa. 1997), the court held that there was nothing "arbitrary or capricious" in the Pennsylvania scheme. Id. A year later, in Albrecht, it again rejected a constitutional challenge to its proportionality review. Albrecht, 720 A.2d at 708. Finally, in early 1999, it rejected the same constitutional challenge, holding that it found "nothing in Appellant's argument which persuades us that our reasoning in Gribble was incorrect." Commonwealth v. Porter, 728 A.2d 890, 901 (Pa. 1999). To force Pursell to raise a constitutional challenge identical to one that has been repeatedly rejected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would require him to perform a "futile act[]." Allen, 80 F.3d at 573. The exhaustion doctrine does not require such meaningless gestures. "After all, it is the legal issues that are to be exhausted, not the petitioner." Story v. Kindt, 26 F.3d 402, 406 n. 8 (3d Cir. 1994) (citations omitted).*fn9
III. PROCEDURAL DEFAULT
The Commonwealth's second procedural attack is based on the doctrine of procedural default. It is well-established that a state court decision resting on an independent and adequate state procedural rule is barred from review in the federal courts. Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 81, 86-87 (1977). Known as procedural default, this doctrine is "grounded in concerns of comity and federalism," Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 730 (1991), and it bars federal habeas review whenever the petitioner has failed to comply with the state's procedural rules, whether this failure occurred at trial, on appeal, or during post-conviction review. Edwards v. Carpenter, 529 U.S. 446, 451 (2000). Only in the rare instance where the petitioner can demonstrate "cause" for not following the state procedural rule and "prejudice" resulting from application of the procedural bar will a federal habeas court review the merits of the petitioner's claim. Sykes, 433 U.S. at 87.
Before a state procedural rule can act as a bar to relief in federal court, however, it must be both "independent" of federal law and "adequate." Coleman, 501 U.S. at 729; Szuchon v. Lehman, 273 F.3d 299, 325 (3d Cir. 2001); Jermyn v. Horn, 266 F.3d 257, 278 (3d Cir. 2001). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court's procedural rules were independent and, thus, I turn to whether those rules were "adequate." A state procedural rule is "adequate" only if it is "firmly established and regularly followed" at the time that the alleged procedural default occurred. Ford v. Georgia, 498 U.S. 411, 423-24 (1991) (quoting James v. Kentucky, 466 U.S. 341, 348-51 (1984)); see also Edwards, 529 U.S. at 455 (Breyer, J., concurring). The United States Supreme Court explained this requirement in Ford v. Georgia. In that case, the Georgia Supreme Court applied a state procedural rule adopted in 1987 in the case of State v. Sparks, 355 N.E. 658, 659 (Ga. 1987) to bar defendant's claim, even though defendant's alleged default took place in 1984, three years before the Sparks rule was even in effect. The United States Supreme Court rejected the Georgia Court's attempt to bar petitioner's federal claim.
The Supreme Court of Georgia's application of its decision in Sparks to the case before us does not even remotely satisfy the requirement of James that an adequate and independent state procedural bar to the entertainment of constitutional claims must have been `firmly established and regularly followed' by the time as of which it is to be applied . . . . Sparks was decided more than two years after petitioner in this case filed his motion on the prosecution's use of peremptory challenges and long after petitioner's trial was over.
Ford, 498 U.S. at 424. As the Court further explained, to apply the Sparks rule "retroactively to bar consideration of [petitioner's] claim . . . would therefore apply a rule unannounced at the time of petitioner's trial and consequently inadequate to serve as an independent state ground within the meaning of James." Id.
Cases in the Third Circuit have also held that a state procedural rule is not adequate to bar federal habeas relief unless it was firmly established at the time the alleged default occurred. Doctor v. Walters, 96 F.3d 675, 686 (3d Cir. 1996); Reynolds v. Ellingsworth, 843 F.2d 712, 722 (3d Cir. 1988); Szuchon, 273 F.3d at 325-26. In Doctor v. Walters, for instance, the Third Circuit reviewed the petition of Gary Lee Doctor. Doctor escaped from state custody in June 1986. In August of that same year, the state trial court entered a guilty verdict against Doctor without ever informing him or his attorney. In 1992, Doctor was rearrested and sentenced. Soon after his sentencing, Doctor filed an appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, but the Court quashed the appeal in 1993, relying on a procedural rule that required dismissal of all claims brought by a recaptured fugitive. Doctor, 96 F.3d at 684. According to the Superior Court, it had no discretion to hear Doctor's appeal.
In reviewing Doctor's petition for habeas corpus, the Third Circuit held that the state's procedural rule was not adequate to bar habeas relief. First, the Court explained that a state procedural rule only bars federal review if it is "firmly established and regularly applied." Id. at 684 (quoting Ford, 498 U.S. at 423-24)). Second, the Court said that the relevant time period for deciding whether the procedural rule was firmly established was not "1993 when the Superior Court relied on it, but rather . . . the date [that] the waiver . . . allegedly occurred when Doctor escaped in 1986." Id. at 686. After a detailed review of the Pennsylvania case law in existence in 1986, the Third Circuit concluded that "it was not `firmly established' that Pennsylvania courts lacked the discretion to hear an appeal first filed after custody had been restored." Id. at 686. Accordingly, "the state courts in this case did not rely on an `adequate' procedural rule to deny petitioner review of his appeal on the merits." Id.*fn10
As the Third Circuit's analysis in Doctor demonstrates, a federal district court analyzing whether a state procedural rule bars federal habeas relief must undergo a multi-part inquiry. First, it must define the state procedural rule that was allegedly violated. Second, it must identify when, precisely, the alleged default occurred. Finally, it must review the state court decisions prior to the time of the alleged default to determine whether the procedural rule in question was firmly established and consistently applied at that time. Bronshtein v. Horn, Civil Action No. 99-2186, 2001 WL 767593, *5 (E.D.Pa. July 5, 2001). In applying this analysis to the present case, I conclude that Pursell's claims are not procedurally defaulted.
A. The Procedural Bars in Question
There are two alleged procedural bars at issue in the present case. First, in Pursell-2, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to address some of the claims raised in Pursell's pro se PCRA petition, holding that these claims were waived because they were not raised at trial or on direct appeal. Pursell-2, 724 A.2d at 302 n. 6, 303, 306. Under this rule, claims that were not properly raised at trial or on direct appeal were waived. Id. The second procedural bar relied on by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was a statute of limitations. In Pursell-3, the Court held that Pursell's second PCRA petition was barred by the PCRA's one-year statute of limitations. Pursell-3, 749 A.2d at 913. Under 42 Pa. Cons.Stat.Ann. § 9545(b), any PCRA petition must be filed "within one year of the date that judgment becomes final." Id. Pursell's conviction and death sentence became final in 1985, but his second "PCRA petition was filed in 1999, more than one year from the date that his judgment of sentence became final . . ." Pursell-3, 749 A.2d at 913. Accordingly, the Court held that Pursell's second PCRA petition was time-barred.
B. When The Alleged Default Occurred
While determining the procedural bars at issue is simple, deciding when the alleged procedural defaults occurred is much harder. First, in Pursell-2, the Supreme Court did not clearly state when the alleged waivers occurred. Nonetheless, a close reading of the Court's opinion in Pursell-2 provides only one possible time-period during which these alleged defaults could have taken place. At the earliest, Pursell waived certain issues when he failed to raise them at trial in 1982 or on direct appeal in 1985. Pursell-2, 724 A.2d at 306. At the latest, he waived other issues when he failed to raise them in his PCRA filings with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1994. Id. Accordingly, my inquiry must focus on the state of Pennsylvania waiver law in death penalty cases between 1982 and 1994.

Pursell's second alleged procedural lapse is easier to place in time. In fact, in Pursell-3, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court identified precisely when the alleged procedural default occurred in that case.

Direct review of [Pursell's] conviction expired in 1985 when [Pursell] failed to seek review in the United States Supreme Court of our decision affirming [his] conviction and death sentence. [Pursell's] present PCRA petition was filed in 1999, more than one year from the date that his judgment of sentence became final and therefore not in compliance with the general one-year time limitation of 42 Pa.C.S. § 9545(b)(1).
Pursell-3, 749 A.2d at 913. By pinpointing the expiration of Pursell's conviction in 1985, and holding that he had only one year from that date to file his petition, the Supreme Court clearly points to 1986 as the year when Pursell's procedural default occurred. Accordingly, my inquiry must focus on the state of the PCRA one-year limitations period in 1986.

The only remaining question is whether the procedural rules used to bar Pursell's claims in Pursell-2 and Pursell-3 were "firmly established and regularly followed," James, 466 U.S. at 348-51, at the time when the alleged defaults occurred.

C. Was the Waiver Rule Firmly Established Between 1982 and 1994?
The waiver rule applied in Pursell-2 was not "firmly established and regularly followed," James, 466 U.S. at 348-51, until 1998, many years after the alleged default in this case occurred. This waiver rule has its root in the language of the PCRA. 42 Pa. Cons.Stat.Ann. § 9544(b) (stating that an issue is waived "if the petitioner failed to raise it and if it could have been raised before the trial, at the trial, on appeal, in a habeas corpus proceeding or other proceeding actually conducted"). Nonetheless, between 1978 and 1998, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court simply did not adhere to this provision in capital cases. In Commonwealth v. McKenna, 383 A.2d 174 (Pa. 1978), for instance, the Court stated that it had a "duty to transcend procedural rules" in death penalty cases because procedural rules "cannot be exalted to a position so lofty as to require this Court to bind itself to the real issue — the propriety of allowing the state to conduct an illegal execution of a citizen." Id. at 181. The doctrine set forth in McKenna became known as the "relaxed waiver rule." Under this rule, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reviewed the merits of all claims raised in capital cases, whether on direct appeal or in post-conviction proceedings, regardless of any alleged waiver by the defendant.*fn11 By 1997, the relaxed waiver rule was so well established that even the Third Circuit concluded that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had a "practice of reaching the merits of claims in PCRA petitions in capital cases regardless of the failure of the petition to meet the appropriate procedural criteria." Banks v. Horn, 126 F.3d 206, 214 (3d Cir. 1997).
The relaxed waiver rule was firmly in place when Pursell's trial was conducted in 1982 and when his conviction was affirmed in 1985. See supra n. 11. In 1991, when he filed his first PCRA petition with the Court of Common Pleas, the relaxed waiver rule was firmly entrenched in Pennsylvania jurisprudence. Id. In 1993, when Pursell filed the appeal of the denial of his first PCRA petition, dkt. no. 19, at 2257-2488, the relaxed waiver rule remained fixed in Pennsylvania law. See supra n. 11. Finally, in 1997, when Pursell sought to amend his PCRA petition to add new claims, the relaxed waiver rule was "generally applie[d] . . . because of the permanent and irrevocable nature of the death penalty." Brown, 711 A.2d at 455; see also supra n. 11.
In 1998, while Pursell's first PCRA petition was pending before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, however, the rules changed. In Commonwealth v. Albrecht, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was urged, once again, to apply its relaxed waiver rule to issues raised for the first time in petitioner's PCRA petition. Albrecht, 720 A.2d at 700. The Court refused. "While it has been our `practice' to decline to apply ordinary waiver principles in capital cases, we will no longer do so in PCRA appeals." Id. (internal citations omitted). Recognizing that the "negligible benefits" from applying the relaxed waiver doctrine to PCRA appeals was "outweighed by the need for finality and efficient use of [its] resources," the Supreme Court abandoned the relaxed waiver rule on PCRA appeals. Id. The Albrecht decision was handed down on November 23, 1998, id. at 693, and used to bar certain of Pursell's claims in January of 1999, Pursell-2, 724 A.2d at 293.*fn12
D. Was the One-Year Limitations Period Firmly Established in 1986?
I reach the same conclusion with the limitations period used to bar Pursell's claims in Pursell-3. In 1995, the Pennsylvania legislature amended the PCRA to add a one-year statute of limitations for all petitions filed under the Act. 42 Pa. Cons.Stat.Ann. § 9545(b). As one commentator has stated, these 1995 amendments to the PCRA "were not written on a blank slate." Natali, New Bars in Pennsylvania, 73 Temp. L. Rev. at 101. Instead, they were written against the backdrop of the well-established relaxed waiver doctrine. Id. Accordingly, even when the statute of limitations was added to the PCRA in 1995, many believed that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court simply would not follow it in capital cases. Id.
The Third Circuit took this view. In Banks v. Horn, the Court held that the relaxed waiver rule applied to a petition by a capital defendant filed outside the statute of limitations. Banks, 126 F.3d at 214. While the Commonwealth argued that Banks' claim was barred by the clear language of the 1995 PCRA amendment, the Third Circuit rejected this argument.
While it is true that the text of the 1995 PCRA amendments supports these contentions, it is not clear that these amendments are dispositive. The Commonwealth does not refer us to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court case applying the PCRA as amended in 1995 to support its view. . . . [T]he Pennsylvania Supreme Court seems to exercise strong control of procedures in death penalty cases.
In the circumstances, we are not confident that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, even in the face of the 1995 amendments to the PCRA, will abandon its practice of reaching the merits of claims in PCRA petitions in capital cases regardless of the failure of the petition to meet the appropriate procedural requirements.
Id. As of 1997, whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would follow the limitations period in the PCRA was simply unclear. Id.; see also Peterkin v. Horn, 30 F. Supp.2d 513, 519-20 (E.D.Pa. 1998) ("it is virtually impossible for this Court to definitively predict" if the PCRA statutory time limits will be applied to capital cases); Crawley v. Horn, 7 F. Supp.2d 587, 588 (E.D.Pa. 1998) (PCRA statutory time bar may be overcome by capital case relaxed waiver rule); Jermyn, 266 F.3d at 278-79.
In late 1998, however, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled for the first time that it would follow the PCRA limitations period in capital cases. In Commonwealth v. Peterkin, 722 A.2d 638 (Pa. 1998), the Court dismissed a capital defendant's second PCRA petition as untimely under the PCRA's statute of limitations. Id. at 642. Because Peterkin failed to file his petition by 1988, a year after his conviction became final, he was barred under the PCRA. Id. at 641. Nonetheless, the Court's decision in Peterkin did not address whether the relaxed waiver rule applied. See Banks v. Horn, 271 F.3d 527, 532 (3d Cir. 2001). Indeed, as the Third Circuit has explained, "the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did not clarify that the state PCRA statute was jurisdictional and not waivable until 1999 in Commonwealth v. Banks, 556 Pa. 1, 726 A.2d 374 (1999)." Fahy v. Horn, 240 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2001). In Banks, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed for the first time the relationship between the relaxed waiver doctrine and the PCRA time-limitations, holding that "the issue here is one of jurisdiction and not waiver." Banks, 726 A.2d at 376. Accordingly, it was not until March 2, 1999, the date that the Banks decision was handed down, that Pursell was put on notice that he had to comply with the PCRA's one-year limitations period. Banks, 726 A.2d at 374.
Once again, the rule applied by the Supreme Court to bar Pursell's claims was not "firmly established and regularly followed" at the time of Pursell's alleged default. According to the Court in Pursell-3, Pursell was required to file his PCRA petition by 1986, within one year of the date his conviction became final. Pursell-3, 749 A.2d at 913. However, that limitations period did not exist at the time that Pursell was supposed to comply with it. Once again, the law changed midstream and these changes were applied retroactively to bar merits review of a number of Pursell's claims. Such a retroactive application of a procedural rule is simply inadequate to bar relief in federal court. Ford, 498 U.S. at 424.
The fact that Pursell did not file his second PCRA petition until June 1999, three months after the decision in Banks, does not alter my conclusion in this case. On at least two occasions before the Banks decision, Pursell tried to amend his first PCRA petition by adding new claims. Pursell-2, 724 A.2d at 300-301. Both attempts were rejected by the trial court. To make matters worse, Pursell was barred under Pennsylvania law from filing a second petition in which he could raise these new claims until his first petition was resolved. Whitney v. Horn, 170 F. Supp.2d 492, 499 (E.D.Pa. 2000); Commonwealth v. Lark, 746 A.2d 585, 588 (Pa. 2000). Had the trial court permitted Pursell to amend his first petition, it might have obviated the need for a second one. Nonetheless, the trial court's refusal left Pursell with a classic Hobson's choice: he was free to raise any claims he wanted, at any time, Fahy, 240 F.3d at 245; Banks, 271 F.3d at 53; Bronshtein, 2001 WL 767593, at *8-10, but he could only raise them in a second petition, and only after his first petition was resolved. Whitney, 170 F. Supp.2d at 499. Accordingly, Alan Pursell had to wait, and while he waited, the law in Pennsylvania changed, and his window for asserting new claims quickly closed.*fn13 Under such unique circumstances, I conclude that Pennsylvania's one-year statute of limitations does not act as an adequate bar to Pursell's federal claims. See Whitney, 170 F. Supp.2d at 498-99.
E. Conclusion to Procedural Default
For more than a decade, one clear legal rule governed capital cases in Pennsylvania: the Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed the merits of any post-conviction petition, regardless of its procedural failings. Then, after nearly fifteen years, this rule changed, and this change was applied retroactively to bar a number of the claims brought by Pursell in the present case. For the foregoing reasons, I conclude that the procedural rules applied by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Pursell-2 and Pursell-3 were not firmly established at the time of Pursell's alleged defaults and, thus, cannot act as an adequate bar to federal review.
IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW
With the procedural issues put to rest, only one preliminary matter remains: the standard of review in cases brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Pursell filed his petition for habeas corpus relief after April 24, 1996, the effective date of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), Pub.L. No. 104-132 § 104, 110 Stat. 1214, so that statute applies to his case. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326-27 (1997). Of particular importance in this case is § 2254(d) which creates a deferential standard of review for federal habeas corpus petitions. This section provides in relevant part:
An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim —
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). The United States Supreme Court interpreted this standard for the first time in Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000). Subsequently, in Hameen v. State of Delaware, 212 F.3d 226, 235 (3d Cir. 2000), the Third Circuit set forth how a district court should proceed when reviewing a habeas petition under § 2254(d)(1).
First, the court must decide exactly what is clearly established law determined by the Supreme Court in the case at hand. Williams, 529 U.S. at 390; see also Hameen, 212 F.3d at 235. The Supreme Court provided some guidance on this issue in its Williams decision. The phrase "clearly established Federal law" "refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta," of Supreme Court opinions at the time that the state court conviction became final. Williams, 529 U.S. at 390 ("[t]he threshold question under AEDPA is whether Williams seeks to apply a rule of law that was clearly established at the time his state-court conviction became final."). Nonetheless, even Supreme Court decisions rendered after the petitioner's conviction became final can be considered "clearly established Federal law" if those decisions would have been considered "old rules" under Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989). See Moore v. Morton, 255 F.3d 95, 104-05 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 412).*fn14
Once the court decides what the clearly established law was at the relevant time, it must then determine whether the state court's decision was "contrary to" or "an unreasonable application of" that law. 42 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). These two clauses have independent meaning. Williams, 529 U.S. at 405, 407. Under the "contrary to" clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ in only two instances: 1) if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law; or 2) if the state court decides a case differently than the Supreme Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Id. at 412-13. "[A] run-of-the mill state-court decision applying the correct legal rule from [Supreme Court] cases to the facts of a prisoner's case [does] not fit comfortably within § 2254(d)(1)'s `contrary to' clause." Id. at 406.
Under the "unreasonable application" clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ even if the state court identifies the correct legal principle, as long as the court unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the case. Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. The Third Circuit explained how a district court should apply this prong of § 2254(d)(1) in Hameen:
The "unreasonable application" inquiry requires the habeas court to "ask whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law was objectively unreasonable." Thus, under the "unreasonable application" clause, "a federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable."

Hameen, 212 F.3d at 235 (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 418-411).*fn15

While the Williams decision concerned only those instances when § 2254(d)(1) obviously applies, the clear language of that section suggests that it does not apply to all cases. The introductory sentence of § 2254(d)(1) explicitly limits deferential review to only those claims that were "adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings." 42 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). "It follows that when, although properly preserved by the defendant, the state court has not reached the merits of a claim thereafter presented to a federal habeas court, the deferential standards provided by AEDPA and explained in Williams do not apply." Appel v. Horn, 250 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2001). In such cases, the court should exercise "pre-AEDPA independent judgment" on those claims. Hameen, 212 F.3d at 248; see also Appel, 203 F.3d at 210.

Prior to the passage of AEDPA, pure questions of law and mixed-questions law and fact were reviewed de novo by district courts. Appel, 250 F.3d at 210; Williams, 529 U.S. at 400-402 (O'Connor, J., concurring) (noting that before AEDPA, federal courts exercised independent judgment when deciding both questions of constitutional law and mixed constitutional questions, i.e, application of law to fact). Nonetheless, the state court's factual findings are still presumed correct, and the petitioner has the burden of rebutting this presumption by clear and convincing evidence. Appel, 250 F.3d at 210 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)).

With these legal standards in mind, I now turn to the merits of Pursell's petition.

V. PURSELL'S GUILT-PHASE CLAIMS
Pursell raises numerous claims for relief from his conviction for first-degree murder. As so often occurs when a third party retrospectively examines a trial record, many aspects of Pursell's trial give me pause. Had I presided over his case, I might have ruled differently than the trial court did on certain objections; and had I represented Pursell, I might have raised certain objections that went unraised, explored certain avenues that went unexplored, and asked certain questions that went unasked. But I did not participate in this case, and cannot on a petition for habeas relief impose my personal predilections on a trial that occurred nearly twenty years ago. Errors were committed during the guilt-phase of Pursell's trial, but proof of error, standing alone, is not sufficient to merit relief on a petition for habeas corpus. Instead, Pursell must show that these errors, either separately or cumulatively, rose to the level of a constitutional violation. In the present case, he has failed to make such a showing, and I will deny his request for habeas relief.
A. Trial Court's Refusal to Order Change of Venue

Pursell first claims that he was denied his right to an impartial jury when the trial court denied his repeated requests for a change of venue due to highly prejudicial pretrial publicity.*fn16 The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied this claim in Pursell-1, 495 A.2d at 187-89, giving two reasons. First, it held that any prejudice against Pursell created by the media coverage in July 1981 had "dissipate[d]" by the time Pursell was tried in January 1982. Id. at 188. Second, it carefully reviewed the 900 pages of jury voir dire and concluded that neither the veniremen nor the sixteen individuals actually chosen for the jury were affected by the pretrial publicity. Id. at 188-89. Because this decision was neither "contrary to" nor "an unreasonable application of" "clearly established Federal law," 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), I will deny Pursell's claim for relief.

(1) Factual Background

Before delving into the merits of Pursell's claim, I will briefly outline the extent of the pretrial publicity at issue in this case.*fn17 There was regular media coverage of Brine's murder for a number of days in late July 1981. Dkt. no. 10, Ex. 10; dkt. no. 26, at 84-89. From these early reports, four kinds of stories emerged that were potentially prejudicial to Pursell.

First, a number of newspaper articles raised speculation that Brine had been sexually assaulted by the murderer. Dkt. no. 10, Ex. 10 (Erie Times-News, 7/25/81; Erie Times-News, 7/26/81; Erie Daily Times, 7/27/81). In fact, one investigator said that "[t]his appears to be a fiendish sex crime killing." Id. (Erie Times-News, 7/26/81). Nevertheless, after Pursell was arrested, the police stated that "[a]lthough there has been much speculation of a sex-based crime. . . ., [r]ight now we don't know that it was a sex crime." Id. (Erie Morning News, 7/29/81). Ultimately, Pursell was not charged with any kind of sexual assault, and the newspapers reported this fact, indicating that the only charge against him was murder. Id. (Erie Daily Times, 8/11/81).
Second, newspaper articles and television broadcasts showed Pursell handcuffed on a number of different occasions. For example, an August 11, 1981 front-page article in the Local section of the Erie Daily Times showed a picture of Pursell in handcuffs. Id. The caption of the picture noted that the statement "Born To Raise Hell" was tattooed on Pursell's bicep. Id. Television broadcasts showed Pursell in handcuffs a number of times as well. Dkt. no. 26, at 87.
Third, some stories inferred that Pursell might be guilty of the Brine killing. On July 30, 1981, WJET-TV ran a report during its 6:00 p.m. newscast in which several residents of the Wesleyville/Lawrence Park area made accusations of guilt against Pursell. Id. During one television broadcast, Pursell's neighbors called him "weird" and a "wild man." Dkt. no. 18, at 1882. One person even accused him of brandishing a gun in the neighborhood. Id. Additionally, on August 14, 1981, the Erie Daily Times ran an article on the front page of its Local section entitled, "How does it feel to be the mother of murderer?" Dkt. no. 10, Ex. 10 (Erie Daily Times, 8/14/81). Despite its unfortunate title, the text of the article focused on Mrs. Pursell's view that her son was innocent. Id. Finally, the local media ran a number of stories about how Pursell's glasses were found at the murder scene, id. (Erie Daily Times, 7/28/81; Erie Morning News, 7/29/81), suggesting that Pursell was at the scene of the murder.
Finally, and most troubling, newspaper accounts and television broadcasts detailed Pursell's record of prior offenses. A July 28, 1981 article in the Erie Daily Times was entitled "Pursell has record of offenses." Id. (Erie Daily Times, 7/28/81). Beginning on the front page, and highlighted by a star, this article detailed Pursell's past criminal record. In addition, the article excerpted a letter to a state court judge that Pursell himself had written while in prison. "I want to try to straighten my life out, I don't want to have to be in jails the rest of my life [because] of the things I do while I'm drinking or on drugs." Id. The article also explained that Pursell's record did "not involve violent or sex crimes." Id. Around the same time, a television broadcast "also pointed out that [Pursell] had spent 1 1/2; years in prison for a stabbing," an incorrect statement. Dkt. no. 18, at 1882.
After this initial flurry of articles appearing around the time of Pursell's arrest, the coverage of the Brine killing slowed down considerably. A few articles appeared in the middle of August, at the time of the preliminary hearing, and some more, mostly factual in nature, ran when Pursell plead not guilty in October 1981, dkt. no. 10, Ex. 10 (Erie Morning News, 10/8/81; Erie Daily Times, 10/8/81), when the court denied Pursell's pretrial motions in November, 1981, id. (Erie Daily Times, 11/3/81), and when the prosecution decided to seek the death penalty. Id. (Erie Daily Times, 11/7/81). Finally, in January 1982, when the trial commenced, media coverage resumed, but it was strictly factual in nature. Dkt. no. 27, Ex. J.

(2) Legal Analysis

The threshold question under AEDPA is whether Pursell seeks to apply a rule of law that was clearly established on December 23, 1985, the date his state court conviction became final. Williams, 529 U.S. at 390. That question is easily answered because Pursell's change of venue claim is governed by a series of cases, all decided by 1985, in which the Supreme Court held that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant the right to "a trial by an impartial jury free from outside influences." Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333, 362 (1966); see also Irvin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. 717, 722 (1961); Rideau v. Louisiana, 373 U.S. 723 (1963); Estes v. Texas, 381 U.S. 532 (1965); Murphy v. Florida, 421 U.S. 794 (1975); Patton v. Yount, 467 U.S. 1025 (1984). As these cases hold, when prejudicial pretrial publicity wholly undermines the impartiality of the jury, the trial court should take steps to assure a fair trial, usually by granting a change of venue. Sheppard, 384 U.S. at 363; Rideau, 373 U.S. at 723.
In some cases, adverse pretrial publicity is so extreme that the court will presume prejudice to the defendant. Irvin, 366 U.S. at 723; Patton, 467 U.S. at 1031. "Where media or other community reaction to a crime or a defendant engenders an atmosphere so hostile and pervasive as to preclude a rational trial process, a court reviewing for constitutional error will presume prejudice to the defendant without reference to an examination of the attitudes of those who served as the defendant's jurors." Rock v. Zimmerman, 959 F.3d 1237, 1252 (3d Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619 (1993); see also Sheppard, 384 U.S. at 333; Rideau, 373 U.S. at 723. Such cases, however, are "exceedingly rare." Rock, 959 F.3d at 1253; Flamer v. Delaware, 68 F.3d 736, 754 (3d Cir. 1995). In fact, for a court to presume prejudice, "the community and media reaction . . . must have been so hostile and so pervasive as to make it apparent that even the most careful voir dire process would be unable to assure an impartial jury." Rock, 959 F.3d at 1252.
In the absence of facts that demonstrate a presumption of prejudice, a defendant must prove actual prejudice, that is, that those who served on his jury could not reach an impartial verdict based solely on the evidence presented at trial. Patton, 467 U.S. at 1035 (citing Irvin, 366 U.S. at 723); Rock, 959 F.2d at 1253.
It is not required . . . that jurors be totally ignorant of the facts and issues involved. In these days of swift, widespread and diverse methods of communication, an important case can be expected to arouse the interest of the public in the vicinity, and scarcely any of those best qualified to serve as jurors will not have formed some impression or opinion as to the merits of the case. This is particularly true in criminal cases. To hold that the mere existence of any preconceived notion as to the guilt or innocence of an accused, without more, is sufficient to rebut the presumption of a prospective juror's impartiality would be to establish an impossible standard. It is sufficient if the juror can lay aside his impression or opinion and render a verdict based on the evidence presented in court.
Irvin, 366 U.S. at 722-23 (emphasis added). To determine whether actual prejudice exists, the court should look to the totality of the circumstances, including the voir dire of the jury. Murphy, 421 U.S. at 799-801.

(a) Refusal to Presume Prejudice

In refusing to presume prejudice, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court relied on a "six month `cooling off period'" between the time when the alleged prejudicial coverage was released and Pursell's trial. Pursell-1, 495 A.2d at 188. Acknowledging that some of the coverage "may establish prejudice," id., the Court nonetheless held that the "`cooling off period' was sufficient to dissipate the prejudice, if any, engendered by the July, 1981, publicity." Id. Pursell claims that the Pennsylvania Court's reliance on this "cooling-off period" was an "unreasonable application" of Supreme Court precedent. For two reasons, I disagree.
First, the United States Supreme Court has explained that, even when pretrial publicity is extensive and severe, a lapse in time between the publicity and the trial can dissipate any prejudice that may have resulted. In Murphy, for instance, the Court held that extensive media coverage of the defendant's prior crimes did not amount to prejudice, particularly since the publicity had stopped seven months before jury selection. Murphy, 421 U.S. at 802. In Patton, the Court found no prejudice when the extensive and prejudicial media coverage occurred four years before the trial itself. During that time, "the community sentiment had softened." Patton, 467 U.S. at 1034. "That time soothes and erases is a perfectly natural phenomenon, familiar to all," the Patton Court explained.
The relevant question is not whether the community remembered the case, but whether the jurors at Yount's trial had such fixed opinions that they could not judge impartially the guilt of the defendant. It is not unusual that one's recollection of the fact that a notorious crime was committed lingers long after the feelings of revulsion that create prejudice have long passed. . . . [I]t is clear that the passage of time . . . can be a highly relevant fact. In the circumstances of this case, we hold that it clearly rebuts any presumption of partiality or prejudice that existed at the time of the initial trial.
Id. at 1035 (emphasis added) (internal citations omitted); see also Flamer, 68 F.3d at 755 (refusing to presume prejudice when there was a lapse of eight months between the publication of the last newspaper story on which the defendant relied and the start of jury selection); see also Jacobs v. Horn, 129 F. Supp.2d 390, 411 (M.D.Pa. 2001) (refusing to presume prejudice when, among other things, the articles in question ran seven months before the trial). Thus, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's reliance on a "cooling off period" was perfectly appropriate under federal law.
Even without the passage of time, however, the publicity in Pursell's case was still far from the kind of "trial atmosphere . . . utterly corrupted by press coverage," Murphy, 421 U.S. at 799, that the United States Supreme Court has required before attaching a presumption of prejudice. In Sheppard, for instance, prejudicial publicity about the murder of Marilyn Sheppard ran all the way through trial and spanned five volumes in the Supreme Court's record. Sheppard, 384 U.S. at 333.
Much of the material printed or broadcast during the trial was never heard from the witness stand, such as the charges that Sheppard had purposely impeded the murder investigation and must be guilty since he had hired a prominent criminal lawyer; that Sheppard was a perjurer; that he had sexual relations with numerous women; that his slain wife had characterized him as a `Jekyll-Hyde'; that he was `a bare-faced liar' because of his testimony as to police treatment; and finally, that a woman convict claimed Sheppard to be the father of her illegitimate child.
Id. at 356-57. Even though some of the jurors admitted that they heard or read these prejudicial news reports, id. at 348, 357, the trial court did not sequester the jurors, and it never directly instructed them to avoid media coverage. Id. at 352-53. Under such circumstances, the Court held that due process was violated by the trial court's failure to "protect Sheppard from the inherently prejudicial publicity which saturated the community and to control the disruptive influences in the courtroom." Id. at 363. Sheppard was a case where prejudice was presumed.
In contrast, the pretrial coverage in Pursell's case was tame, to say the least. It was of limited scope and duration, and it left only a slight impression on the veniremen, and almost no lasting impression on the jurors actually seated.*fn18 Pursell has failed to show that his is one of those "exceedingly rare" cases, Rock, 959 F.2d at 1252, where "the community and media reaction . . . [was] so hostile and so pervasive as to make it apparent that even the most careful voir dire process would be unable to assure an impartial jury." Id. at 1252. Accordingly, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's refusal to presume prejudice was not an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.

(b) Refusal to Find Actual Prejudice

A review of the jury voir dire confirms the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's conclusion that the jury was capable of impartially determining Pursell's fate.*fn19 None of the jurors had a fixed opinion concerning Pursell's guilt; none of them had any specific knowledge about Pursell's prior crimes; and each of them said that he or she could render a verdict based solely on the evidence presented at trial. Indeed, in the entire voir dire transcript there are only two colloquies on which Pursell could create a colorable claim of partiality. First, Douglas Czerwinski stated that he heard someone on the news say that Pursell was a "neighborhood troublemaker." (Tr. 1/15/82, at 134, 138). Nonetheless, he expressed no opinion on Pursell's guilt, and said that he could decide the case based solely on the evidence presented at trial. Id. at 135-36. He was accepted by the defendant without challenge. Id. at 138. Second, Donald Schruers stated that he had seen all that had been reported about the case and would have a hard time disregarding that information. (Tr. 1/14/82, at 89-91). Yet, he too said that he had no fixed opinion about Pursell's guilt, and that he could judge the case on the evidence brought at trial. Id. at 90-91, 94. Again, the defense accepted him without objection. Id. at 94.

Pursell's jury had even fewer indicia of partiality than did the juries in many cases where the Supreme Court has held that actual prejudice did not exist. In Murphy, "20 of the 78 persons questioned were excused because they indicated an opinion as to petitioner's guilt," Murphy, 421 U.S. at 794, yet that jury was deemed to be without actual prejudice. Likewise in Patton, where 77% of prospective jurors admitted that they would carry an opinion about defendant's guilt into the jury box, and where 8 of 14 jurors seated, admitted that they, at some time, had formed an opinion as to defendant's guilt, the Court held that such evidence was insufficient to amount to actual prejudice. Patton, 467 U.S. at 1029-30, 1035. Needless to say, if the Murphy and Patton voir dires were insufficient to show actual prejudice then the Pursell jury easily passes constitutional muster. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision to deny Pursell's due process claim was correct, and hardly an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.

(3) Ineffective Assistance Claim

Pursell's final argument concerning pretrial publicity is that his counsel was ineffective for failing to ensure that the record before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court contained all of the relevant newspaper articles and television broadcasts. In one respect, Pursell is correct: the record before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on his claim for pretrial publicity was incomplete. As that Court noted, "[t]he characterization of continued and pervasive prejudicial pretrial publicity . . . appears nowhere in the record presented to us for review . . . . Such factual allegations, de hors the record, cannot be considered by a reviewing court and the practice of asserting facts in an appellate brief, which allegations do not appear in the record has recently been condemned by us . . ." Pursell-1, 495 A.2d at 188 n. 3. In his petition, Pursell has remedied this problem by including all of the articles that were not given to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. I have independently reviewed these articles and have measured the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision against this complete record. Because I conclude that Pursell was not entitled to relief on his due process claim, even under a review of the complete record, I will deny his claim for ineffective assistance of counsel.
In Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), the Supreme Court explained that there are two components to demonstrating a violation of the right to effective assistance of counsel. First, the defendant must show that counsel's performance was deficient. This requires showing that "counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness." Id. at 688; see also Williams, 529 U.S. at 390-91.
Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential. It is all too tempting for a defendant to second-guess counsel's assistance after conviction or adverse sentence, and it is all too easy for a court, examining counsel's defense after it has proved unsuccessful, to conclude that a particular act or omission of counsel's was unreasonable. . . . [A] court must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance; that is, the defendant must overcome the presumption that, under the circumstances, the challenged action "might be considered sound trial strategy."
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689. As the Third Circuit has explained, "[i]t is only the rare claim of ineffective assistance of counsel that should succeed under the properly deferential standard to be applied in scrutinizing counsel's performance." United States v. Kauffman, 109 F.3d 186, 190 (3d Cir. 1997).
Second, the defendant must show that he was prejudiced by the deficient performance. "This requires showing that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. To establish prejudice, the defendant "must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Id. at 694, 104 S.Ct. 2052; see also Williams, 529 U.S. at 391.
In the present case, Pursell cannot prove that he suffered any prejudice from his counsel's failure to ensure that the record before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was complete. As my analysis above demonstrates, even if the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had been provided with all of the pretrial publicity in this case, its conclusion would have been the same. Accordingly, Pursell has failed to prove a "reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, the result of the proceedings would have been different." Id. at 694. His ineffectiveness claim is denied.

(4) Conclusion

I will deny Pursell's claims for relief concerning the trial court's failure to grant a change of venue. Because I do not believe that Pursell has made a "substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right," 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2), on his due process and ineffective assistance of counsel claims, I will also deny him a certificate of appealability on those claims.*fn20
B. Trial Court's Denial of Challenges For Cause
Pursell's second guilt-phase claim is also directed at the composition of his jury and the conduct of his lawyers. During the jury voir dire, Pursell's lawyer moved to strike some potential jurors for cause and, in a number of instances, the trial court denied these challenges. Pursell claims that these rulings, and his lawyer's failure to challenge them on appeal, violated his Sixth Amendment rights to effective assistance of counsel and an impartial jury, and his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process.*fn21 Because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did not address the merits of these claims, I review them de novo. For the following reasons, I will deny Pursell's claims for relief.

(1) Ineffective Assistance Claim

Pursell first claims that his appellate counsel was ineffective when he failed to raise on appeal the trial court's refusal to strike six potential jurors: Harold Shank; William Noble; Patricia Gunther; Jerome Ott; Wellie Yaple; and Ruth Fink. The Sixth Amendment's right to effective assistance of counsel, as set forth in Strickland, also extends to appellate counsel. Evitts v. Lucey, 469 U.S. 387, 396-97 (1985). Accordingly, to succeed on his claim that his appellate counsel was ineffective, Pursell must prove both prongs of the Strickland test. United States v. Mannino, 212 F.3d 835, 840 (3d Cir. 2000). First, he must show that his appellate counsel's "representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688. That is, he must show that counsel unreasonably failed to raise on appeal the trial court's denial of his challenges for cause. Second, he must prove that he was prejudiced by his counsel's failure. This requires a showing that "there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors," id. at 694, he "would have prevailed on appeal." Smith v. Robbins, 528 U.S. 259, 285-86, 120 S.Ct. 746, 145 L.Ed.2d 756 (2000); see also Mannino, 212 F.3d at 844.
Obviously, I cannot resolve Pursell's Strickland claim until I first examine the merits of the claim that his lawyer failed to raise on appeal. Mannino, 212 F.3d at 840. If the trial court was wrong when it denied any of Pursell's six challenges for cause, and if this error was reversible under Pennsylvania law, then Pursell's counsel should have raised this claim on appeal. But if Pursell's underlying claim lacks merit, then he "cannot successfully argue that counsel's failure to raise the claim on direct appeal denied [him] [his] constitutional right of representation." Id. Success or failure on the Strickland claim, in other words, is linked with success or failure on Pursell's underlying challenge for cause claim.

(a) Legal Background

At the time of Pursell's direct appeal, Pennsylvania law was relatively straightforward on when a trial court should strike a juror for cause.

The test for determining whether a prospective juror should be disqualified is whether he or she is willing and able to eliminate the influence of any scruples and render a verdict according to the evidence, and this is to be determined on the basis of answers to questions and demeanor, Commonwealth v. Bighum, 425 Pa. 554, 307 A.2d 255 (1973). It must be determined whether any biases or prejudices can be put aside on proper instruction of the court, Commonwealth v. Drew, 500 Pa. 585, 459 A.2d 318 (1983). A challenge for cause should be granted when the prospective juror has such a close relationship, familial, financial, or situational, with the parties, counsel, victims, or witnesses that the court will presume a likelihood of prejudice by his or her conduct and answers to questions, Commonwealth v. Colon, 223 Pa. Super. 202, 299 A.2d 326 (1972). The decision on whether to disqualify is within the sound discretion of the trial court and will not be reversed in the absence of a palpable abuse of discretion, Commonwealth v. Black, 474 Pa. 47, 376 A.2d 627 (1977).

Commonwealth v. Colson, 490 A.2d 811, 818 (Pa. 1985), abrogated on other grounds, Commonwealth v. Burke, 781 A.2d 1136 (Pa. 2001).

As this standard indicates, jurors need not be free from bias. Indeed, "it would be unrealistic to expect jurors to be free from all prejudices, a failing common to all human beings." Commonwealth v. Johnson, 305 A.2d 5, 8 (Pa. 1973). Rather, Pennsylvania law only requires that jurors seek "to put aside those prejudices in the performance of their duty, the determination of guilt or innocence." Id. As the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has explained repeatedly: "We therefore do not expect a tabula rasa but merely a mind sufficiently conscious of its sworn responsibility and willing to attempt to reach a decision solely on the facts presented, assiduously avoiding the influence of irrelevant factors." Id.; see also Commonwealth v. England, 375 A.2d 1292, 1296 (Pa. 1977); see also Colson, 490 A.2d at 818; Commonwealth v. Drew, 459 A.2d 318, 320 (Pa. 1983).
In the first instance, it is the trial judge who must decide whether a potential juror has satisfied this standard. His ruling is a finding of fact, entitled to great deference, and it will not be disturbed on appeal unless it amounts to a "palpable abuse of discretion." Colson, 490 A.2d at 818.
Commonwealth v. Gelfi, 128 A. 77, 79 (Pa. 1925); Commonwealth ex rel. Fletcher v. Cavell, 149 A.2d 434 (1959); Commonwealth v. Bighum, 307 A.2d 255, 259 (Pa. 1973). To show that his underlying claim is meritorious, therefore, Pursell must do more than just prove that the trial court was wrong in denying a challenge for cause. He must also show that the trial court's ruling was a "palpable abuse of discretion."
What complicates matters for Pursell is that AEDPA adds an additional layer of protection for the trial court's rulings in the present case. The United States Supreme Court has held that a trial judge's determination that a potential juror is qualified to sit on a jury is a finding of fact. Patton, 467 U.S. at 1038; Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U.S. 412, 428 (1985). Under AEDPA, such factual determinations are "presumed to be correct," 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1), and a petitioner, like Pursell, bears "the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence." Id. While the parties do not raise § 2254(e)(1), the clear language of the statute seems to apply to this case. In fact, the statute itself applies to any "determination of a factual issue made by a State court . . ." Id. And at least one federal circuit court has applied § 2254(e)(1)'s presumption to a factual situation similar to the one presented by Pursell's challenge. Collins v. Dormire, 240 F.3d 724, 727 (8th Cir. 2001) (applying presumption of correctness to trial court factual findings concerning underlying claim that counsel failed to raise on appeal).

With this legal background in mind, I now turn to the merits of Pursell's challenge for cause claim.

(b) Challenges to Shank, Noble, Fink, and Gunther

Of the six potential jurors challenged by Pursell, four of them — Harold Shank, William Noble, Ruth Fink, and Patricia Gunther — were clearly qualified to serve as jurors under Pennsylvania law. Shank, Noble, Fink, and Gunther each came into the courtroom with a built-in bias, but each acknowledged that he or she could put this bias aside and judge the case against Pursell solely on the evidence introduced at trial. Pennsylvania law requires no more. Colson, 490 A.2d at 818; Drew, 459 A.2d at 320; Johnson, 305 A.2d at 8. A brief review of the testimony of each juror confirms the soundness of the trial court's rulings.
Harold Shank had read newspaper articles about the crime, and suggested that these articles tended to hint at the guilt of the defendant. (Tr. 1/13/82 at 80, 84-85). Nevertheless, his comments were more directed at what the newspapers thought than at what he thought. Id. at 80, 85. And, when asked directly, he said that he did not have a fixed opinion about the guilt or innocence of Pursell. Id. at 80-81. Shank also said that he lost his daughter in a tragic accident "so naturally I would display favor to the parents." Id. at 81; see also id. at 84. Nonetheless, he said that he would be able to put that fact aside and decide the case based solely on the evidence presented at trial, without any bias based on the death of his child. Id. at 81-82, 84. Pursell challenged Shank for cause and the trial court correctly denied the challenge. Id. at 85.
William Noble had heard about the case from the news media and, when he entered the courtroom, he was "leaning one way": "[g]uilty." Id. at 112, 115. Nonetheless, he believed that he could set aside all he had seen and judge the case solely on the evidence presented in the courtroom. Id. at 112-13. In fact, on questioning from defense counsel, Noble said that his opinion was not "fixed" and that he could put it out of his mind if selected for the jury, id. at 115-16, even though he was not "positive" that he could forget it. Id. at 116. After Pursell's lawyer moved to strike for cause, the court conducted its own questioning:
THE COURT: It's like an opinion, once it's there-would you explain that once again? You have an opinion and now you can't get it out of your mind?
MR. NOBLE: Well, I can't get it out of my mind, but I would be willing to listen to all evidence and base an opinion on that but I have already — I am not going to say that I haven't read nothing.
THE COURT: But are you willing to dismiss from your mind any prejudice that you might have or any leaning one way if you were chosen while you were listening to the evidence and testimony from both sides?
MR. NOBLE: I could do that.
Id. at 116. The court then correctly denied the challenge for cause. Id. at 117.
Ruth Fink said that she had a "tendency" to believe police officers more than other witnesses. (Tr. 1/19/82, at 66-67, 69). Based on this testimony, defense counsel moved for cause, and this motion was denied. Id. at 70. Nonetheless, the trial court allowed further questioning. During this questioning, Fink said that she would follow the court's instructions on the credibility of witnesses, id. at 70, and that she would apply these instructions to both police and other witnesses. Id. at 70-71. Finally, in response to questioning by defense counsel, she said "[t]he more you question me the least I would be inclined to say that [it] is my tendency to believe someone just because of their occupation." Id. at 72-73. At that point, defense counsel struck Fink with a peremptory challenge. Id. at 73. While the soundness of the trial judge's initial ruling is debatable, his judgment about Fink's impartiality was borne out by further questioning. Even defense counsel seemed to acknowledge as much because he did not renew his challenge for cause.
Finally, Patricia Gunther had no fixed opinion about Pursell's guilt, (Tr. 1/14/82, at 17-18), and acknowledged that she could put aside what little she remembered and judge the case solely on the evidence presented in court. Id. at 18-19. Nevertheless, when informed that the victim was a thirteen year-old boy, Gunther said that she would hope to be impartial because she had a daughter that age. Id. at 18. At the end of her voir dire, defense counsel pursued this line of inquiry.
Q. Would you still be able to act impartially in light of the fact that the victim is thirteen years old?
A. Now honestly, the only thing I can say is that I would hope I would.
Q. Is the answer "I don't know"?
A. Okay, I don't know.
Q. You are not sure.
[DISTRICT ATTORNEY]: I think the answer was she would attempt and she would hope she would.
MRS. GUNTHER: Yeah, I would hope that I would be impartial. I can't —
Q. (By [Defense Attorney]) At this time you can't say; is that correct?
A. Yeah, I can't say a definite yes I will act impartial, you know.

Id. at 22-23.

The trial judge was not troubled by this colloquy and neither am I. For one, it is unclear whether Gunther had an actual bias at all. She acknowledged, quite honestly, that she hoped her child's age would not influence her thinking, but she never said that it would. Second, it was only after repeated questioning that she finally said "I can't say a definite yes I will act impartial." Id. at 23. In Murphy, 421 U.S. at 801-02, the United States Supreme Court confronted a juror who indicated that he could be impartial, but after numerous leading questions made a statement that undermined his impartiality. In upholding the trial court's refusal to strike for cause, the Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Marshall, stated that "we cannot attach great significance to this statement . . . in light of the leading nature of counsel's questions and the juror's other testimony . . ." Id. I concur with the Murphy Court's assessment and find no problem with the trial court's refusal to exclude Gunther for cause.
Obviously, the trial court's rulings on Shank, Noble, Fink, and Gunther were correct if AEDPA's presumption of correctness applies to the present case. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). None of the voir dire testimony shows the kind of clear and convincing evidence needed to overcome AEDPA's hurdle. Yet, even if the presumption does not apply, the trial judge's rulings were still correct. All four witnesses testified that they could set aside any pre-existing biases, and judge the case on the evidence presented at trial. Pennsylvania law expects no more. Colson, 490 A.2d at 818. Pursell's claim concerning Shank, Noble, Gunther, and Fink is without merit, and his counsel was not ineffective for failing to raise it on appeal. Mannino, 212 F.3d at 840.

(c) Challenges to Ott and Yaple

That leaves two potential jurors, Jerome Ott and Wellie Yaple. The most troubling part about Ott's voir dire is his testimony about police witnesses.
Q. Now, would you naturally tend to believe a police witness more than another witness just because he is a police officer?
A. That's a tough question. I always believe police officers.
Q. Pardon me.
A. I've always believed police officers.
Q. Well, because he is a police officer?
A. He is still human.
Q. Okay, in other words, would you believe him just because he is a police officer more than you would believe anybody else who is a witness because he isn't a police officer?
A. I don't think so.
(Tr. 1/14/82, at 126). After the court completed its questioning of Ott, defense counsel asked a few questions on the issue of police testimony.
Q. I think you said it was a tough question in your mind whether you would tend to believe a police officer more than other witnesses; is that correct?
A. Well, like I say, I was always brought up to law and order and that the police officer was always — he was authority — and so I at least have a tendency to believe him more than I would an ordinary person.
Q. Is that still the case?
A. Depends on the police officer now, I believe.
Q. Okay, I am talking about just because he is a police officer. You might not know these police officers at all. In fact, I think that probably will be the case because you have been read a list of witnesses. So, let me just ask that again. If you would see a police officer that appeared who you don't know at all, all you know is that he is a police officer —
A. I think I could disregard the fact that he is a police ...

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