Procedure v. Innocence (ctd.)

Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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3 Responses

  1. The defendant here was not denied his right of habeas corpus; he failed to exercise it.

    Strike that. The defense attorney failed to exercise his client’s right of habeas corpus. And no wonder — habeas cases are factually and procedurally difficult, expensive, and have a low success rate. Finding attorneys to take on that kind of work can be something of a challenge. For an indigent defendant, who is actually incarcerated while conducting the attorney search, finding such an attorney could be a daunting challenge indeed.

    I think the solution is extending the statutory time period in which habeas appeals should be filed. That’s not being “soft on crime” because by definition we’re talking about people who are already in prison; nor does it have to alter the “one-habeas” rule. If anything, if a prisoner is given a longer period of time — three years after final judgment seems right to me — in which to find counsel and prepare a habeas petition, that justifies the harsh sort of result we see in this case.

    As for this defendant, I have a hard time squaring a judicial finding of actual innocence with a result that he remains incarcerated. That’s just plain not justice and that’s why this case should have had the opposite result — and then been depublished so as not to create a precedent.Report

    • @Transplanted Lawyer,
      “The defendant here was not denied his right of habeas corpus; he failed to exercise it.”

      That’s the line I was looking for. I could have saved myself plenty of time on writing posts if I could have thought of that. Also – I fully agree with you on extending the statute of limitations.

      That said, I think that if they were ever going to address this issue (and they clearly had to since there were apparently a number of district courts in the 9th that were applying “actual innocence” as an exception to the statute of limitations), they were probably going to have to do it in a case where the district court actually concluded that the defendant met the actual innocence standard. Obviously, an unsuccessful prisoner isn’t going to argue on his appeal that he shouldn’t have been granted a hearing at all. I suppose the State could raise it on a cross-appeal, but I assume it would be a rare case indeed that the appellate court would have occasion to reach the cross-appeal where the primary appeal is from a denial of a habeas petition.

      What I have a hard time understanding is why they neither chose to make their decision prospective only, allowing the district court’s decision to stand with regard to this particular prisoner, nor did they choose to cast doubt on the substantive basis for the “actual innocence” determination (which the concurrence did somewhat ably), thereby preventing the perception that they were working a grave injustice against an innocent man.Report