Joshua M. Lott

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“This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.” Justice Scalia may already be well known for a strict approach to statutory construction, but his dissenting statement in the 2009 Supreme Court decision, In re Davis, caused quite a buzz among national media. Although callous in appearance, Justice Scalia’s words provide a technically correct reading of Supreme Court precedent and federal habeas corpus law: actual innocence is not a recognized claim of constitutional error that would allow federal courts to review a prisoner’s habeas petition.

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