Legal Question re: Death Penalty in USA.

Hi all. I was reading a GD thread called Does Bill O’Reilly make more sense in this interview than Michael Moore? and I was quite taken aback when I came across this line in a post by **denquixote **.

I’ve bolded the important part. I was quite unaware of this and would be interested in learning the Supreme Court’s reasoning behind this ruling. Would anyone be able to point me towards some objective discussions of this particular ruling?

P.S. - I’m just asking for cites pertaining to this particular ruling. I’d really appreciate it if posters in this thread refrained from debating the merits of the death penalty. Thanks.

IANAL and unsure of all pertinent case law but you might give House v. Bell a look.

Actually this link may prove more useful. Actually looks the the Supreme Court eased restrictions in this regard but I’ll leave it to the legal eagles for analysis.

I have to run, but for the time being try to get the gist of this case: Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390 (1993) (Or, if you’re in a hurry too, the Wikipedia article).

We discussed this a bit starting in reply 66 in this thread:

Apparently, it’s possible to “run out of appeals” and be forced to serve whatever sentence you have been handed even if you have proof of your innocence.

Krishna Maharaj is in a prison in Florida, and is in such a position.

Color me confused.

How does the Schlup v. Delo differ? They talk about it but I am not following exactly what they are on about.

I’m going from memory here, but IIRC *Herrera * held that actual innocence, by itself wasn’t grounds for federal habeas corpus relief–you have to allege two things:

  1. Constitutional error at trial; and
  2. The result might have been different if the error hadn’t occured (this is where proof of innocence is relevant)

Herrera hadn’t shown any trial error, and instead argued that executing him when he was actually innocent, even though he had a fair trial, violated the Eigth Amendment.

Schlup claimed that he was unconstitutionally denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial *and * that he was innocent.

I’ve probably mucked up some of the verbal formulas involved, but I think that the gist of it.

From Schlup:

Tip: It’s always a good idea to look at the opinion itself instead of the syllabus.

So, to take the technical discussion and put it into layman’s terms, these cases aren’t about putting innocent people to death, but rather about whether or not and to what extent the federal courts can intervene into a state’s judicial system when the death penalty is involved and a claim is made that the convicted person is actually innocent. Two different things, though it might not seem that way to someone wrongly convicted and sitting on death row… :eek:

These are the kind of cases that cry out for a pardon or commutation.

Yes they are, which is exactly why we have given executives the powers of pardon or commutation.

Maybe this needs to move to GD since the OP is answered but I have to admit I am more than a little appalled by this.

I can certainly understand that courts need to have resolution to cases and leave them be. Bored prisoners would swamp the system more than it already is if they could continually revisit the evidence in their trial.

Nevertheless I am appalled at the courts and justice system. There seems ample evidence of cases where there IS new evidence (such as DNA testing becoming available) and yet the courts still ignore it (see my cite of House v. Bell in my fist post in this thread).

In another while reading around is this article on Dretke v. Haley. Apparently everyone (prosecutors and defendant) agrees this person is serving a sentence that is far too long yet they obstruct letting him out of jail.

This is seriously messed up. Is there ANY part of “justice” left in the justice system or is it just this ogre of a machine that marches along regardless of truth or fairness?

Quality information there. Thanks a lot guys.

I cannot give a citation, but I recall a couple of years ago that the attorney general of Florida said he would oppose a new trial even if shown conclusive proof of innocence. He said it was just his job to do that.

On the other hand, the Innocence Project has gotten some courts to reopen long decided cases by reanalyzing DNA evidence using modern methods. So some judges are interested in justice.

It was in Wilton Dedge’s case, which is featured in the documentary After Innocence, and written up on the Innocence Project website.

A prosecutor’s ethical duty is to see that justice is done; it is not to fight tooth and nail to keep someone incarcerated whom you know to be innocent. When I was a prosecutor, I was just as happy to dismiss charges against someone that new evidence showed to be innocent, as I was to get a conviction against someone I was convinced was guilty. Too many prosecutors seem to forget, if you’ve got the wrong guy, the real criminal is still at large.

My sense is, and correct me if I am wrong, that many prosecutors see their job performance judged by how many people they throw in jail. If they can show a high prosecution rate all the better for them regardless if it is the right person. Finding later you got the wrong guy only hurts them so they fight tooth and nail to avoid it.

I agree 100% with you that it should be as you mention. I just do not have the sense that this is how it always works. Certainly some will be respectful of the law and justice as you are but some others are not.