Advertisement

Supreme Court Rules To Limit Access To Federal Court Review In Death Penalty Case

Advertisement

OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


A divided Supreme Court ruled on Monday that federal judges cannot hear new evidence from death row inmates who argue that their state-appointed lawyers were constitutionally ineffective during state trials.

In a 6-3 ruling, Justice Clarence Thomas argued in the court’s opinion that two death row inmates in Arizona can’t raise evidence of ineffective counsel during their federal habeas appeal given they had not presented the argument in state court.

“To respect our system of dual sovereignty … the availability of habeas relief is narrowly circumscribed,” Thomas wrote for the majority in Shinn v. Ramirez.

Advertisement

“Only rarely may a federal habeas court hear a claim or consider evidence that a prisoner did not previously present to the state courts in compliance with state procedural rules,” Thomas added.

The court’s three liberals — Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan — wrote for the dissent that the ruling “effectively ends” Sixth Amendment rights to counsel for people who might have been wrongfully convicted.

“This decision is perverse. It is illogical: It makes no sense to excuse a habeas petitioner’s counsel’s failure to raise a claim altogether because of ineffective assistance in postconviction proceedings,” the three liberal justices wrote for the dissent.

Sotomayor claimed the majority overruled previous precedents “that recognized a critical exception to the general rule that federal courts may not consider claims on habeas review that were not raised in state court.”

The ruling comes as the Supreme Court will soon deliver the official ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the highly anticipated abortion case that could overrule Roe v. Wade.

A draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked to Politico last week it set off a firestorm on social media.

Advertisement

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts called the leak of a draft opinion “absolutely appalling” and announced an investigation to find the leaker.

“The draft opinion is a full-throated, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and a subsequent 1992 decision – Planned Parenthood v. Casey – that largely maintained the right,” Politico reported.

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito writes.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” he writes in the document, labeled as the “Opinion of the Court.”

Alito adds: “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

Advertisement

“We, therefore, hold the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Roe and Casey must be overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives,” Alito writes in the document, labeled the “Opinion of the Court.”

Soon after Alito’s draft majority opinion leaked, it’s assumed there were at least 5 votes in favor of overturning Roe v Wade, leaving state legislators to weigh their own abortion policies.

Advertisement

More bluntly, if the Supreme Court does announce that Roe v Wade is overturned, each state will have to pass abortion laws and it’s likely many will enact very strict measures against the practice.

“The draft opinion is a full-throated, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and a subsequent 1992 decision – Planned Parenthood v. Casey – that largely maintained the right,” Politico reported.

Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz also offered his opinion of who he believes the “leaker” could be.

Advertisement
Back to top button
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
Send this to a friend