U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Death-Row Inmate’s Case for Third Time


The U.S. Supreme Court has twice ruled against Tennessee death-row inmate Gary Cone. Now the justices will decide whether federal courts may consider his claim that the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence.

Cone had claimed he was suffering from an amphetamine psychosis when he killed a Memphis couple following a two-day crime spree, the New York Times reports. A prosecutor had called the assertion “baloney” and the Tennessee Supreme Court said there was no evidence to support the claim when it affirmed the conviction.

But the prosecution had not disclosed previous police reports that called Cone a heavy drug user and said he looked frenzied after the crime.

The petition for certiorari (PDF posted by SCOTUSblog) says one of the issues is whether a federal habeas court is powerless to recognize that a state court erred in holding Cone’s claim could not be reviewed under state law.

Among those who working on the cert petition were Jeffrey Fisher and Pamela Karlin of the Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, and two outside lawyers affiliated with the clinic, the husband-and-wife Supreme Court litigators Thomas Goldstein and Amy Howe. The <a href=”http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/taking_the_firm_to_scotus_school/”” title=”ABA Journal”>ABA Journal covered the increase in law school Supreme Court clinics in “Taking the Firm to SCOTUS School.”

The case, accepted yesterday, is Cone v. Bell.

The Supreme Court accepted another appeal yesterday from a Tennessee death-row inmate. The issue in Harbison v. Bell is whether the federal government is required to provide lawyers to indigents on death row seeking clemency.

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