Herbert Allen was shot and killed on Christmas Eve, 1982. Although virtually no physical evidence was recovered from the crime scene, Gerald Howell was arrested for the murder. His arrest and conviction were based on witness testimony. Fast forward to today, however, and three of the government’s trial witnesses have recanted their testimony. A fourth died long ago because he was prepared to testify against another witness the governemnt relied on, who appeared at Howell’s preliminary hearing but later confessed to Allen’s murder himself. Based on the recantations and Parnell’s confession, Howell asserted a claim of actual innocence and seeks to set aside the District Court’s dismissal of his untimely habeas petition.
The Third Circuit ruled that "although recantations are viewed with suspicion," the recantations here casts doubt on Howell's conviction and reverses the District Court's error in denying an evidentiary hearing and dismissing the petition.