The “equitable balance” of constitutional rights faces off with legal procedural technicalities

This op-ed politely discusses the dis-connect between what the Supreme Court considers their “view” of constitutional rights (really a procedural statute of limitations argument) without touching on the personal rights and privileges of the inmate seeking a review of eyewitness witness testimony a lower court considered to have been “available” at time of trial.

After reading the op-ed go to the ABA Journal to hear some choice comments from the dissenting minority of SCOTUS.
Opinion analysis: Innocence exception survives, innocence claim does not

By Jordan Steiker on May 29, 2013 at 11:06 am

Jordan Steiker is the Judge Robert M. Parker Chair in Law and Co-Director, Capital Punishment Center at the University of Texas School of Law.

Yesterday a closely divided Court concluded that a proper showing of “actual innocence” is sufficient to circumvent the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act’s (AEDPA) statute of limitations. Justice Ginsburg, writing for the five Justices in the majority, affirmed that “a credible showing of actual innocence” remains a global gateway around procedural obstacles on federal habeas permitting “merits” review of an inmate’s federal constitutional claims. In so doing, the Court rejected the state’s assertion that the innocence exception should be unavailable to petitioners who fail to act with due diligence in filing for federal habeas relief. At the same time, the Court indicated that “unjustifiable delay” on the part of a habeas petitioner might bear on the strength of his showing of actual innocence. Accordingly, instead of simply affirming the court below – the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit had rightly concluded that a showing of actual innocence stands as an exception to AEDPA’s statute of limitations – the Court vacated and remanded the case with its added gloss on the equitable doctrine. Moreover, the Court’s remand makes clear that it sees no reason to disturb the district court’s conclusion that Perkins’s showing of innocence was in any event insufficient to justify overcoming the limitations bar. Ultimately, the decision reflects the Court’s continued commitment to its own role in setting the equitable parameters of the federal habeas forum. Given the Court’s special solicitude for inmates who can make a compelling case of actual innocence, such inmates will continue to receive a “get-out-of-habeas-procedure-free” card; to receive actual relief, however, those inmates must also demonstrate a separate constitutional violation (apart from their innocence), at least until the Court revisits Herrera v. Collins.

About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
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