Execution of the Innocent is UNACCEPTABLE. Congress - Fix This Now!

Defendants must have the right to challenge their convictions at the federal level when they have evidence that their trial attorney(s) failed to do so.

On May 23, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6 to 3 in Shinn v. Ramirez to overrule two lower courts and disregard the innocence claims of Barry Lee Jones, a prisoner on Arizona’s death row. This decision did not rule that it found Jones’s innocence claims unpersuasive. Instead, it ruled that the federal courts are barred from even considering them. This creates an ominous scenario that virtually assures that more innocent people will be executed. (UPDATE: June 15, 2023, Barry Jones has been freed in spite of this awful ruling. Read about that here.)

Read more background and opinions here, here, here, and, well... Just google it.


As Justice Antonin Scalia famously suggested (parap[hrasing), 'those who protest at the Court are barking up the wrong tree. If you don't like a law, go across the street to Congress and change the law.'

At issue is whether the doors of the federal courts are open to people who are innocent, unfairly tried, or unfairly sentenced to death but were provided incompetent lawyers during their trials and then again in their state post-conviction appeals. The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to counsel. But the US Supreme Court has just said that states who repeatedly violated your right to a competent lawyer can keep you jail or execute you and there is nothing the federal courts can do about it. Even if you never got a fair trial. Even if you should never have been sentenced to death. Even if you are innocent.

BUT — what Congress can do is change the specific laws in question, which have just been interpreted in a way that makes it much more difficult for a defendant with evidence of innocence to be allowed a fair opportunity to present that newly developed evidence in federal court.

Section 2254(e) of the US Code deals with how the federal courts handle claims that the state courts have violated the constitutional right to counsel.  The Supreme Court’s decision in Shinn v. Ramirez “interprets” that section in a way that makes it useless as a practical matter.

Congress must reverse the Supreme Court’s judicially-invented rule which allows people who have been represented by ineffective lawyers in their trials and post-conviction appeals to remain wrongfully imprisoned or executed by denying them federal review of claims of innocence or constitutional violations that their incompetent state-court lawyers failed to raise.

Therefore, we demand that Congress change Section 2254(e) and other similar federal laws to make it unmistakably clear that defendants must have a meaningful right to challenge their convictions at the federal level when they have evidence that their trial attorney(s) failed to do so.
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