- Slides: 8
Actual Innocence Should the Legal System Care?
Two Competing Arguments n Finality and the rule of law n Possibility of executing an actually innocent person
Finality and the Rule of Law: Herrera Majority n n n “In any system of criminal justice, ‘innocence’ or ‘guilt’ must be determined in some sort of a judicial proceeding. ” “Due process does not require that every conceivable step be taken, at whatever cost, to eliminate the possibility of convicting an innocent person. ” “[I]n the eyes of the law, petitioner does not come before the Court as one who is ‘innocent, ’ but, on the contrary, as one who has been convicted by due process of law[. ]”
Finality and the Rule of Law: O’Connor Concurrence n n “Petitioner is not innocent, in any sense of the word. ” “Petitioner therefore does not appear before us as an innocent man on the verge of execution. He is instead a legally guilty one who, refusing to accept the jury’s verdict, demands a hearing in which to have his culpability determined once again. ”
Finality and the Rule of Law: Boiling it Down n n When a defendant has been found guilty by a jury, so long as she has been given all the process guaranteed by the Constitution, she is legally guilty and has no recourse in the legal system. If a person is actually innocent, there are other avenues, not in the legal system, to set aside the guilty verdict (i. e. clemency).
Execution of the Actually Innocent: Bandes Article n n n “When a doctrine permits a result so far removed from our collective sense of justice, it is time to re-examine that doctrine. ” “[S]ometimes lawyers and judges get so caught up in the minutiae of lawyering as to lost sight of basic, universal human principles. ” “Since the execution of an innocent person, standing alone, ought to be considered a violation of the Constitution, it should be cognizable on habeas corpus without the need to allege an additional constitutional violation. ”
Comparing the Arguments n So long as all due process has been given, there is no Constitutional issue— all legal avenues have been exhausted. n Executing an actually innocent person is a Constitutional violation itself and does not need a showing of another violation in order to proceed in habeas.
Should the law care about actual innocence?