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U.S. Supreme Court Announces Rule That Actual Innocence Can Overcome Procedural Barriers in Federal Court

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, June 05, 2013
Massachusetts has a longstanding rule that allows defendants to file a motion for new trial at anytime by making a showing that “justice may not have been done.” In the federal courts, however, the rule is much different.  The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) bars new trial motions (called federal habeas corpus petitions) after one year from the date the convictions become final.  If new evidence surfaces, a petition may be made one year from the date that the evidence would have been found if the prisoner had engaged in due diligence to find new evidence.   Recently, however, the United States Supreme Court  issued its decision inin McQuiggin, Warden v. Perkins.  More than 11 years after his conviction for murder became final, McQuiggin filed a habeas petition, relying on three affidavits that he describes as new evidence. He asserted that these affidavits would prove his actual innocence, so that he should be relieved of the one-year limitations period.   Although the Court disagreed with McQuiggin’s assertion that the affidavits proved his actual innocence, the Court did state that  actual innocence, if proven, can overcome procedural barriers to the habeas corpus petitions  set forth in the AEDPA  The justices reasoned that structural barriers should not serve to bar evidence of actual innocence where doing so would result in a miscarriage of justice.   If you need a lawyer contact Brooks & Crowley LLP today and talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer.  

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