Eleventh Circuit gives Hardbody Harrison an opportunity to prove that his judge was racist and brain-damaged

Norris v. United States, No. 15-10390 (11th Cir. Apr. 25, 2016).

Jack Camp was a federal district court judge in Georgia. The FBI suspected Camp, then in his late 60s, of committing drug crimes with Sherry Ann Ramos, whom Camp was also paying for sex. 

Camp thought Ramos’s black boyfriend was taking advantage of her. This, he told her, made it hard for him to sentence other black men who he thought were taking advantage of white women—particularly the pro wrestler “Hardbody” Harrison Norris, who was convicted of forcing women into prostitution and whom Camp sentenced to life imprisonment. Black men pimping out white women burned him up, Camp told Ramos, and he couldn’t help but want to give them life in prison.

Eventually, Camp was convicted of drug and gun crimes. To argue that he should get a light sentence, his lawyers told the court that he had suffered a brain injury in a bike accident and was bipolar. (He ended up with 30 days in prison and 400 hours of community service.)

Norris has now brought a collateral challenge to his conviction and sentence, arguing that his due process rights were violated by Camp’s racial bias and mental incompetence. The district court denied Norris even an evidentiary hearing. The Eleventh Circuit now reverses, saying that Norris’s allegations of bias and mental incompetence justify an evidentiary hearing. Whether Norris will actually be able to prove bias and incompetence is left to the district court on remand.