CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Friday, September 17, 2010

Controversy over Actual Innocence and Habeas

The L.A. Times has this story:

An attorney for a man wrongly convicted of murder accused California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown's office Thursday of waiting until after the November election to seek to return the man to prison on a technicality.

. . .

Lisker . . . was released from prison last year after a judge found that he was convicted on "false evidence" and had been inadequately represented by his trial attorney.

. . .

Earlier this month, the attorney general filed a motion asking a judge to reverse her decision to overturn Lisker's conviction because he had missed a deadline years ago by which to file his appeal.

The attorney general's motion hinges on a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in a different case decided in July. In that case, a man's conviction for child sex abuse and sodomy had been overturned by a district court judge even though he had missed a federal deadline in which to file his habeas corpus petition. As in the Lisker case, the district court judge determined after evidentiary hearings that the man, Richard Lee, had met an "actual innocence" exception to the deadline.

The 9th Circuit reversed that ruling. The judges noted the overturning of Lisker's conviction and said there was a "widening split among the district courts of our circuit on whether there is an actual innocence exception." They concluded that no such exception exists and reinstated Lee's conviction.

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One "logical" conclusion to the "deadline exception" is that actual innocence is irrelevant. Ironically, that is not what jurors are told. Once again the public--with the aid of government sponsored "law and order" programs--is sold a false bill of goods. Given the disproportionate number of judges who were former prosecutors, should it be surprising that if the government presents false evidence or violate any procedural rules, then the law does not apply. But if a defendant violates procedure it does apply?

Posted by: Iconoclast | Sep 18, 2010 7:54:45 AM

It's always somewhat startling to this non-lawyer the extent to which the justice system values finality and orderliness over justice.

Childhood notions of "truth, justice and the American way" die hard, I suppose.

Posted by: John K | Sep 18, 2010 8:16:10 AM

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