Just back from California and much to tell. But for right now, I want to note that last Wednesday, while I interviewed brave antiwar veterans, the Supreme Court heard arguments in House v. Bell -- the case I wrote about here, when it was docketed. And according to the Linda Greenhouse ar the Times, the debate was mildly encouragng for House, and all for whom DNA proved their convictions were wrongly obtained.
An argument before the Supreme Court in a 20-year-old murder case suggested on Wednesday that the court might be willing to open the door a bit wider to death row inmates seeking access to federal court to present plausible but belated claims of innocence.
It was a gritty argument with an unusually intense focus on the evidence that a Tennessee jury considered in convicting Paul G. House of the murder of a neighbor, Carolyn Muncey. Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen G. Breyer were particularly steeped in the details and were deeply engaged on opposite sides of the case, debating it back and forth almost to the exclusion of the lawyers standing before them.
Like I said back then, it's unusual to find a SCOTUS case - even a death penalty case - that talks so explicitly about blood spatters and semen samples. (Then again, the Justices likely watch TV too.)
If Breyer et al. prevail, then my prediction of October may also come true.
Listen to the bigger, broader question the Court also accepted, leading to a rash of headlines like this:
What constitutes a "truly persuasive showing of actual innocence" pursuant to Herrera v. Collins sufficient to warrant freestanding habeas relief?
Listen to that gateway turning, in the Justices' mind, to a floodgate as the history of rotten jurisprudence - sleeping attorneys, watch-checking failure to cross-examine the forensics people, illiterate signed confessions and racist juries - is peeled open like some death-row Superdome. I don't know which Justice insisted it was OK to add the second question, but it's the one that could change the face of death row appeals (or not) very quickly.
Perhaps it's time to ask Sammy Alito, for whom "Scalito" appears to be, according to Dahlia Lithwick and others, a kind nickname by all accounts,to give his perspective on the execution of innocents. The word, according to Douglas Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy. and Boalt Law School professor Goodwin Liu in the L.A. Times, is not promisng.
Such questioning, if done artfully, might just peel away Alito's"nice guy" facade once and for all.