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May 25, 2022

Some sharp headlines in response to sharp SCOTUS habeas limits

The US Supreme Court's ruling earlier this week in Shinn v. Martinez Ramirez, No. 20-1009 (S. Ct. May 23, 2022) (available here), provides still further evidence that a significant majority of Justices are quite eager to limit and cut back on federal habeas review of state convictions.  That reality surely helps explain why some of the early commentary about the ruling, at least as judged by headlines, is notably sharp.  Here are just some examples: 

From The Daily Beast, "The Supreme Court Just Said That Evidence of Innocence Is Not Enough"

From HuffPost, "The Supreme Court Just Made It More Likely Innocent People Will Be Executed"

From The New Republic, "The Supreme Court Decides Death Row Prisoners Don’t Deserve Competent Lawyers"

From Salon, "Legal experts: Clarence Thomas’ “radical” ruling forces innocent people to stay in prison"

From Vox, "The Supreme Court just condemned a man to die despite strong evidence he’s innocent"

Though I am troubled by where the Supreme Court seems to be heading with its recent habeas jurisprudence, some of these headlines strike me as a bit too sharp.  For somewhat more measured accounts, here are two other notable blog perspectives on Martinez Ramirez:

From Crime & Consequences, "Taking Statutes Seriously"

From SCOTUSblog, "Conservative majority hollows out precedent on ineffective-counsel claims in federal court"

May 25, 2022 at 08:44 AM | Permalink


As long as the people executed are guilty murderers, I'm fine with it. I can live with it if more-culpable murderers sometimes get life, while less-culpable, but still culpable, murderers are executed.

However, if innocent people are executed, that's a big problem.

Posted by: William C Jockusch | May 26, 2022 4:39:10 PM

William C. Jockusch --

There is no proof accepted by any neutral organization that we have executed a factually innocent person since the DP resumed after Gregg in 1976. The other side likes to talk about the Willingham case, while never mentioning that, after his execution, Willingham's own lawyer admitted that his client was guilty.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 30, 2022 8:56:31 AM

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