U.S. Supreme Court

Justice Jackson writes her first Supreme Court opinion, says justices should have heard death-penalty case

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AP Supreme Court Opening Day 2022

In this sketch drawing by court artist Dana Verkouteren, the Supreme Court justices hear arguments on the opening day of its new term Oct. 3. Sketch by Dana Verkouteren via the Associated Press.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote her first Supreme Court opinion Monday—a dissent from the high court’s refusal to hear a death-penalty case.

Jackson said the Supreme Court should have heard the appeal by Davel Chinn, who argued that a federal appeals court used the wrong standard when evaluating the impact of the prosecution’s failure to disclose exculpatory evidence.

The prosecution had failed to disclose that its star witness against Chinn had an intellectual disability that may have affected his ability to remember, to distinguish fact from fiction and to testify accurately, Jackson said.

The witness, Marvin Washington, said Chinn shot one of two men they robbed in Dayton, Ohio, in 1989.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Cincinnati had ruled that Chinn failed to show that he was prejudiced as a result of the suppressed evidence.

Jackson said Chinn only had to show a reasonable probability of a different trial outcome if the suppressed evidence had been turned over. The 6th Circuit “did not appropriately apply” that standard, Jackson said.

Jackson said she would have summarily reversed the 6th Circuit.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined Jackson’s dissent.

In a second case, Sotomayor dissented from the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case of sex-trafficking defendant Willard Anthony, who objected to impeachment testimony by the prosecutor who presented Anthony’s case to the grand jury.

The grand jury prosecutor had been called to rebut an inference that witnesses against Anthony had received leniency in exchange for their testimony.

“The prosecutor’s testimony, however, went far beyond that limited purpose,” Sotomayor wrote.

The prosecutor expressed his belief that Anthony was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and that Louisiana’s witnesses were credible.

“The prosecutorial misconduct in this case is not only blatant and egregious but a clear due process violation,” Sotomayor said.

Jackson joined Sotomayor’s dissent.

Hat tip to NBC News, CNN and the Associated Press, which covered Jackson’s opinion.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Justice Jackson has dominated SCOTUS oral arguments, statistics show”

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