Detention & Guantanamo

D.C. Circuit on Obaydullah: New Evidence Unhelpful to Detainee's Case

By Raffaela Wakeman
Friday, January 24, 2014, 4:15 PM

The D.C. Circuit, in an exceedingly brief and quickly-issued per curiam judgment, has affirmed the district court's denial of Obaydullah's motion regarding newly-discovered evidence related to his habeas petition. Yours truly covered the oral arguments that took place in this Guantanamo habeas case only last week at the D.C. Circuit.  That was fast.

Background: prior to the D.C. Circuit’s 2012 denial of Obaydullah's habeas petition, the detainee separately had filed a motion in the district court seeking relief under Rule 60(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. He said that new evidence demonstrated that one item used against him in his habeas case—blood splatter in his vehicle—had an innocuous explanation.  That is, in Obaydullah's view, his proof made clear that his wife had given birth to Obaydullah's daughter in the car.  And indeed, an investigation identified family member witnesses who could confirm that the blood did not come from al Qaeda fighters injured in an accidental IED explosion---as the government had argued earlier in the proceedings. The new evidence didn't change much for the detainee, in the end.  District Court Judge Richard Leon denied Obaydullah's new-evidence motion in 2013, after the D.C. Circuit had affirmed the the lower court's rejection of habeas relief.

In its ruling today, the D.C. Circuit disagrees with Obaydullah's take on the new evidence, and agrees with Judge Leon's.  The latter had concluded that other evidence supported a finding that Obaydullah was more likely than not a member of Al Qaeda---and further that such evidence was not affected by the detainee's showing regarding blood in his car. The appeals court also rejected Obaydullah's claim that new evidence calls into question the credibility of a government witness, a Staff Sergeant;  on the contrary, writes the court, the newly-tendered evidence adds to the fellow's credibility, "because it confirms that blood was present where he said it was."