“no sensible jury confronted with all of this evidence would have concluded that Jones was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
But Jones’s lawyers failed to present crucial evidence at his trial.”
“Then, after Jones challenged his conviction in a state court proceeding, he was met with, as Sotomayor put it, “another egregious failure of counsel.”
In the words of the law, Jones was denied his constitutionally required right to effective assistance of counsel — twice.
Sotomayor, however, wrote these words in a dissenting opinion. On a party line vote in Shinn v. Ramirez, the Court held that Jones will not receive a fair trial despite his lawyers’ poor performance.”
“Justice Clarence Thomas’s majority opinion claimed that a law restricting the power of federal courts to toss out convictions in state courts prevents Jones from seeking relief. But Thomas’s reading of this law is novel — his opinion had to gut two fairly recent Supreme Court decisions to deny relief to Jones.”
“Before Monday, the Supreme Court’s decisions in Martinez v. Ryan (2012) and Trevino v. Thaler (2013) should have guaranteed Jones a new trial. Both decisions deal with what should happen in the unusual circumstance when someone accused of a crime receives ineffective assistance of counsel, twice.”
“If a state fails to provide convicted individuals with a way to challenge their conviction on ineffective assistance grounds, federal courts may step in and provide a forum to hear this challenge in what is known as a “habeas” proceeding. Martinez, moreover, established that federal courts may step in when a criminal defendant receives inadequate assistance of counsel both at their trial and in a state proceeding permitting them to challenge their conviction.
Both a federal trial court and an appeals court determined that this is exactly what happened to Jones — that is, neither his state trial attorneys nor the lawyers who represented him in his postconviction challenge adequately investigated his case. And, without seeing all the evidence suggesting that Jones is innocent, the state court judge presiding over this postconviction proceeding had no way to know that Jones’s conviction should be tossed out.
The federal trial court held its own evidentiary hearing, considered the evidence against Jones and the evidence that his lawyers botched his case, and ordered the state of Arizona to give him a new trial.”
“[The] decision in Ramirez does not explicitly abandon Martinez and Trevino, but, as Sotomayor explains in dissent, “the Court all but overrules” these two decisions “that recognized a critical exception to the general rule that federal courts may not consider claims on habeas review that were not raised in state court.”
Under Justice Thomas’s majority opinion, federal courts may still conduct habeas proceedings when a criminal defendant alleges that they received inadequate assistance of counsel twice, but the federal court may not consider any evidence that wasn’t presented in earlier proceedings. As Thomas writes, “if a prisoner has ‘failed to develop the factual basis of a claim in State court proceedings,’ a federal court ‘shall not hold an evidentiary hearing on the claim’ unless the prisoner satisfies one of two narrow exceptions” that are not present in Jones’s case.
The problem with this rule should be obvious. The whole point of Jones’s federal case is that his state court lawyers performed so poorly that they failed to uncover evidence that should have exonerated him. If a federal habeas court may only consider evidence that was presented by feckless lawyers to state courts, then there is no point in having a federal habeas proceeding in the first place.”
“in Sotomayor’s mind, and in the minds of the two other justices appointed by Democratic presidents who joined her opinion, the purpose of a criminal trial is to determine whether or not someone is actually guilty of a crime — and to do so through an adversarial process where both sides are represented by lawyers who can present the best possible legal and factual case for the prosecution and the defense.
Thomas, writing for the Court’s Republican majority, offers a different view of why trials exist. He deems federal habeas proceedings problematic because they “override the States’ core power to enforce criminal law.” When a federal court deems someone’s conviction constitutionally inadequate, Thomas complains, it “overrides the State’s sovereign power to enforce ‘societal norms through criminal law,’” and “disturbs the State’s significant interest in repose for concluded litigation.”
Thus, in Thomas’s view, the purpose of a state-conducted trial is to give criminal defendants a procedure in state court. But once that process is concluded, the state court’s decision generally should remain final — even if that means executing an innocent person or condemning someone in violation of the Constitution.”