Monday, June 3, 2013

Conservative Justices on Supreme Court Say Convicts Should Serve Their Sentence Even If They Have Proof of Actual Innocence

Fortunately for Justice, Decency, and Most Importantly Law, The Position Does Not Stand

The Supreme Court has just considered whether or not a person who can show ‘actual innocence’ post conviction can petition the federal courts for a habeas corpus even after the time limit for such a petition has passed.  In a five to four ruling the majority said, YES, they can.

This should have been an easy and 9 to 0 decision.  If justice in America means anything, it means that if a convicted person can later show proof that they are innocent, they should be let out of jail.  This basic right is surely inscribed in the 14th amendment right to due process.  But Congress in a law passed in the 1990’s gave convicts only one year to file for relief, and the Court had to address the situation of whether or not Congress could make this restriction when a person later found proof that they were innocent.

The majority said no, Congress could not restrict such a basic right.  But conservatives on the Court are furious, how dare the government let someone out of prison who is innocent.  Justice Scalia (who else) leads the indignation of allowing innocent people to go free.

Justice Scalia
Doesn't care of a person
is innocent, they stay in
jaul or are even executed

That's his vision of America
and the Constitution
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a blistering dissent for his fellow conservatives. He said that Congress was specific in writing the one-year limitation into the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, and that the court’s exception was “a flagrant breach of the separation of powers.”

“One would have thought it too obvious to mention that this court is duty bound to enforce AEDPA, not amend it,” wrote Scalia, who was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Notice that there are any number of situations where Justice Scalia has no problem in over-turning an act of Congress when he personally disagrees with that act, or finds some Constitutional flaw in the law.  And notice how here he and his fellow radicals completely abdicates the responsibility of the Court, which is to pass judgment on a act of Congress, not to blindly enforce it.  (If all the Court is supposed to do is simply ratify an act of Congress, what's the point of having a Court?)

But this is the face of modern Conservatism, a Supreme Court, that denies basic justice to Americans in the name of, well, we don’t know what it is in the name of.  Certainly not Conservatism, which would hold that the rights of the individual trump those of the state, and that the right not to be held in prison when one is innocent of a crime is certainly a bedrock of Conservatism (and Liberalism and democracy and the Constitution.)  Congress simply does not have the Constitutional right to deny relief in the courts to someone who can show actual innocence even if an artificial deadline has passed.  One would think this basic right was obvious even to the "hang 'em high' Conservative Justices on the Supreme Court, but apparently it is not.

Ultimately History will not be kind to Mr. Scalia, and the judgment of history will be as a result of things Mr. Scalia has written himself. He is not a Conservative, does not uphold conservative practices, he is just a mean and vindictive person.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting. This is a fascinating decision.

    An analysis from SCOTUSblog, which notes that one of Scalia's primary arguments is incorrect:

    I recommend reading Scalia's dissent in full, particularly the last few sentences. He tries to explain his position on why it can be ok to imprison innocent people.