The Supreme Court just condemned a man to die despite strong evidence he’s innocent

“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.”

What’s in the Senate’s new gun control bill

“Under the legislation, $750 million would be allotted over the next five years to help states implement red flag laws, which allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others. (Similar laws already exist in 19 states and the District of Columbia.) The legislation allows for the implementation of these programs through mental health, drug and veterans’ courts.

Republicans involved in the negotiations pushed to make sure no one is flagged without “the right to an in-person hearing, an unbiased adjudicator, the right to know opposing evidence, the right to present evidence, and the right to confront adverse witnesses,” as well as a right to bring counsel to the hearing.

“Under this bill, every state will be able to use significant new federal dollars to be able to expand their programs to try to stop dangerous people, people contemplating mass murder or suicide, from being able to have access to the weapons that allow them to perpetrate that crime,” Murphy said in a floor speech.”

“While spouses, co-parents or cohabitating partners convicted of domestic violence are already banned from purchasing firearms, abusers in relationships between people who are not married and live separately are still able to purchase guns, creating the so-called “boyfriend loophole.” (According to Everytown, a gun safety advocacy group, about 70 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month.)

Under the new legislation, anyone convicted of domestic violence against a former or current dating partner would be banned from purchasing a weapon.”

“The legislation calls for an expansion of background checks into buyers under 21 years of age, providing three business days for the check into their criminal and mental health history to be completed. If that background check finds something questionable in a potential buyer’s record, the legislation would provide for an additional seven business days to look into the buyer.”

“The bill provides funding for expanding access to mental health services, including making it easier for Americans on Medicaid to use telehealth services and work with “community-based mental health and substance use disorder treatment providers and organizations.” And it would provide additional funding for the national suicide prevention hotline (since guns accounted for a majority of suicide deaths in 2020) while schools would receive funding to increase the number of staff members providing mental health services.”

“The bill also provides $300 million for the STOP School Violence Act for increased security at schools, although some Democrats had expressed concern about this aspect of the bill.”

“The legislation would also require more sellers to register as “Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers,” including anyone who sells guns to “predominantly earn a profit.” These sellers would in turn be required to run background checks on potential buyers and keep records of the sales.

The bill would also impose penalties on “straw” purchasers who buy guns for people who can’t pass a background check.”

Samuel Alito: One Angry Man

“Alito is not just a conservative. He’s not a consistent “originalist” in the vein of Scalia or Justice Clarence Thomas, only a “practical” one. The key to understanding Alito is not judicial philosophy or ardent conservatism: it’s his anger — an anger that resonates with the sentiments of many voters, especially white and male ones, who feel displaced by recent social and cultural changes. If you want to understand what to expect from the post-Roberts Court, paying attention to that anger pays dividends.”

“Alito’s anger consistently sounds in a register of cultural decline, bemoaning the growing prominence of women and minorities in American life. Writing the majority opinion in Hobby Lobby, which endorsed a company’s right to deny employees contraception coverage, Alito waxed lyrically about the “men and women who wish to run their businesses as for-profit corporations in the manner required by their religious beliefs.” The women denied medical care that facilitates participation in the labor market, in contrast, weren’t a concern. Examining a Washington state regulation of pharmacists, Alito was quick to detect “hostility” to conservative religious beliefs. And in an opinion repudiating New Haven’s effort to promote more Black firefighters, Alito alone trawled the history of the case to complain about the role played by a Black pastor who was an ally of the city’s mayor and had “threatened a race riot.” Black involvement in municipal politics, for Alito, appears as a sinister threat to public order.

In stark contrast, when the charge of discrimination is made on behalf of racial or religious minorities, Alito expresses no such solicitude. He does not search for evidence of bias. Instead, he takes an impossibly narrow view of job-related discrimination that demands women somehow instinctively know they are being paid less than male counterparts. Despite his claim to a “just the facts ma’am” approach, Alito has a distinctively constricted take on what the “facts” are. To read his opinions is to inhabit a world in which it is white Christian men who are the principal targets of invidious discrimination, and where a traditional way of life marked by firm and clear gender rules is under attack.

When it comes to the criminal justice system, Alito is a reliable vote for the most punitive version of the state. In 2016, when the Supreme Court invalidated Florida’s death-penalty scheme on Sixth Amendment grounds, only Alito dissented. When the court, a year earlier, found a federal sentencing rule for armed offenders unconstitutionally vague, only Alito voted for the prosecution. It’s difficult to think of cases where Alito has voted for a criminal defendant, or any other litigant that elicits liberal sympathies.”

“In November 2020, Alito gave a keynote speech to the conservative legal organization the Federalist Society. Much criticized at the time for its partisan tone “befitting a Trump rally,” in the words of one critic, those remarks are useful because they prefigure where a court on which Alito is a dominant voice might go.
In that speech, Alito criticized pandemic restrictions by bemoaning the rise of “scientific” policymaking. He complained about the “protracted campaign” and “economic boycotts” of Catholic groups and others with “unpopular religious beliefs” (self-identified Christians make up some 63 percent of the American populace). And he (falsely) warned of “morning after pills that destroy an embryo after fertilization.” If that speech is any guide — and there is no reason to think it won’t be — the future of the Supreme Court will be increasingly one of religious censor: keeping women in their lane, standing up for Christian rights, and making sure that uppity “scientists” in the federal government don’t get their wicked way.”

He Didn’t Use the ‘Magic Words’ To Get Access to a Lawyer. Were His Rights Violated?

“whether or not someone has actually invoked their right to counsel is, to some degree, subjective, though it can have far-reaching consequences in a defendant’s case.”

Republicans Defend Texas Social Media Law—and Compelled Speech

“A blatantly unconstitutional Texas social media law can start being enforced unless the Supreme Court steps in. The law was blocked by a U.S. district court last year after internet advocacy and trade groups challenged it. But a new order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit means Texas can begin enforcement of its social media law—and wreak havoc on the internet as we know it in the process.

NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA)—the groups that filed the lawsuit against the Texas social media law—have now submitted an emergency petition to the Supreme Court asking it to intervene. Meanwhile, Texas and a slew of other states with Republican leaders are advocating for the law, which would treat large social media platforms like common carriers (such as railroads and telephone companies) that have a legal obligation to serve everyone.

How we got here: The Texas social media law (H.B. 20) bans large platforms from engaging in many forms of content moderation—including rejecting unwanted content outright, limiting its reach, or attaching disclaimers to it—based on the viewpoint said content conveys. It’s similar to legislation passed (and blocked, for now) in Florida.

Borrowing a page from George Orwell, supporters like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott say the law is designed to protect free speech. But in addition to protecting people and private entities from censorship, the First Amendment also protects against them being compelled by the government to speak or host certain messages—which is exactly what H.B. 20 does.

Accordingly, Judge Robert Pitman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas held last December that H.B. 20 violated the First Amendment and issued a preliminary injunction against enforcing it.

But Texas appealed, and last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit issued a stay on the lower court’s decision—meaning Texas can start immediately enforcing the social media law.

The 5th Circuit did not offer an opinion explaining its reasoning, so it’s hard to say what’s going on there. In any event, NetChoice and the CCIA are now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to step in.”

How much legal jeopardy is Hunter Biden in?

“The main legal questions appear to be whether Hunter violated tax laws, committed money laundering, or acted as an unregistered foreign lobbyist.”

“There is nothing inherently illegal about accepting money and gifts from foreign interests if you are a private citizen and your dad is a famous, powerful person. But you do have to pay taxes on it. And according to the New York Times, a federal inquiry into whether Hunter had properly paid his taxes began back during the Obama administration. Then, in 2018, the tax inquiry became a broader criminal investigation into Hunter, conducted by the US attorney’s office in Delaware, examining possible money laundering and whether he was an unregistered foreign agent.”

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“Hunter is also under scrutiny for potential money laundering — basically, bringing foreign funds into the US financial system in connection with some sort of crime. Various financial institutions filed “suspicious activity reports” to the US government about movements of funds in and out of Hunter’s accounts, including to his uncle James Biden.

Though the term “money laundering” may bring to mind drug trafficking or something of the sort, prosecutors can also charge it in connection with more prosaic crimes, such as acting as an unregistered foreign agent. (Manafort was charged with conspiring to launder money for this purpose.)”

“The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) requires people doing political, public relations, or lobbying work for foreign clients to register with the government as foreign agents. Ordinary business work for foreign clients does not require FARA registration. But when that work moves from the business realm to the political realm — or, importantly, to the public relations realm — that obligation may kick in.

So the question is what kind of work Hunter really did.”

The Government Doesn’t Need New Powers To Fight ‘Domestic Terror’

“the FBI already has unbelievably sweeping authority to surveil individual Americans or domestic groups without ever having to go before a judge to get a warrant.

Under an investigative category known as an assessment, FBI agents can search commercial and government databases (including databases containing classified information), run confidential informants, and conduct physical surveillance, all without a court order.”

The Sedition Indictment Against 11 Oath Keepers Describes a Plot That Was Pitifully Inept and Ineffectual

“The FBI has arrested more than 700 Donald Trump supporters who unlawfully entered the Capitol grounds or the Capitol itself that day, many of whom incriminated themselves by recording and/or livestreaming their activities. On the anniversary of the riot, The New York Times reported that “a little over 300” had been charged with petty crimes such as trespassing and disorderly conduct, while “more than 225 people” were “accused of attacking or interfering with the police” and “about 275” were charged with obstructing the congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s election.

Against this backdrop, last week’s indictment of 11 Oath Keepers stands out. It was the first time that any of the rioters had been charged with sedition—specifically, using force to “prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States.” The conspiracy described in the indictment is notably different from the spontaneous, heat-of-the-moment crimes committed by most of the people who stormed the Capitol. Unlike the riot as a whole, which looked more like a temper tantrum than an incipient coup, the “operation” mounted by the Oath Keepers was planned well in advance. Although it is the closest thing we have seen so far to an “insurrection” (the label that Democrats routinely apply to the riot), it was still half-baked and pitifully ineffectual.”

” The preparations for January 6 allegedly included gathering Oath Keepers from around the country; paramilitary training; “reconnaissance” of the Capitol area; multiple purchases of guns, ammunition, and firearm accessories; a stash of weapons at a hotel in Arlington; and a “quick reaction force” (QRF) that waited at the hotel, ready to act “if SHTF.” The indictment says “the QRF teams were prepared to rapidly transport firearms and other weapons into Washington, D.C., in support of operations aimed at using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power.””

“The Oath Keepers who went to the Capitol on January 6 evidently did not bring any firearms, although they did have “hard-knuckle tactical gloves, tactical vests, ballistic goggles, radios, chemical sprays, a paracord attachment, fatigues, goggles, scissors, a large stick,” and a German Shepherd named Warrior.”

“According to the indictment, however, Rhodes and other Oath Keepers celebrated the riot and talked about following it up with further acts of resistance. “Thousands of ticked off patriots spontaneously marched on the Capitol,” Rhodes said that night in a Signal group chat. “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” Between January 10 and January 14, the indictment says, Rhodes spent about $18,000 on firearm parts, accessories, and ammunition. But apparently nothing came of whatever Rhodes might have been planning. He was not arrested until.. a year after the spending spree described in the indictment.”

“On Election Day, Rhodes publicly advised Oath Keepers to “stock up on ammo” and prepare for a “full-on war in the streets” if Biden were declared the winner. A week later, Rhodes posted a “call to action” under the headline “WHAT WE THE PEOPLE MUST DO.” It described elements of the revolt against Milosevic, which included not only “peaceful protests” and “complete civil disobedience” but also “swarm[ing] the streets,” “confronting the opponents,” “storm[ing] the Parliament,” and “burn[ing] down fake state Television.”

In a December 23, 2020, message on the Oath Keepers website, Rhodes said “tens of thousands of patriot Americans, both veterans and non-veterans, will already be in Washington D.C., and many of us will have our mission-critical gear stowed nearby just outside D.C.” He warned that he and likeminded patriots might have to “take to arms in defense of our God given liberty.”

So much for staying below the radar. Rhodes’ lack of discretion was not his only problem. It remains unclear exactly how he hoped to keep Trump in power.”

“The plan, evidently, was to “scare the shit” out of Congress with a show of force that would persuade legislators to reject electoral votes for Biden. But in the end, the Oath Keepers merely joined a riot that was already in progress, and the riot itself accomplished nothing but an interruption that delayed ratification of Biden’s victory until that night.”

“The sedition charges do not require that the defendants had any realistic hope of success. Assuming the allegations are true, Rhodes et al. did indeed conspire to use force to “prevent, hinder, or delay” the execution of Congress’ constitutional and statutory obligations to certify the election results. And in addition to the sedition counts, which are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, the defendants face various other charges, including conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, assault, destruction of government property, interference with law enforcement, and tampering with evidence (mainly by erasing incriminating data on their cellphones).

The Justice Department estimates that as many as 2,500 people may ultimately face charges in connection with the Capitol riot. Most of them will be more like Gonzalez, the “Capitol Doobie Smoker,” than Rhodes and his followers, who had ambitious but inept plans that ultimately amounted to little more than a sideshow in a much broader spasm of vandalism and violence that was itself utterly futile.”

Could a 54-year-old civil rights law be revived?

“I’m very supportive of efforts to either essentially bribe localities into doing the right thing through a Race to the Top program if you don’t reduce exclusionary zoning. I think that’s a good effort, but I think that the Economic Fair Housing Act offers something both substantively and politically that’s better.
I think part of the problem with the existing federal proposals is that they suggest that exclusionary zoning is bad policy because it blocks opportunity and makes housing less affordable and damages the planet. All of those things are true, but what I think the Economic Fair Housing Act tries to do is say it’s not just bad policy, it’s immoral for governments to erect barriers that exclude and discriminate based on income … because it’s shameful what’s going on.”

“In the 21st century, segregated communities are kept that way not through laws that explicitly attempt to keep certain areas white but through a more insidious method — exclusionary zoning and land-use regulations that make it illegal to build affordable types of housing, laws that allow wealthy Americans to block things from being built, and a failure to consistently use federal civil rights laws to desegregate.

All of this has resulted in the prices of housing and rent skyrocketing. Over the last year, diminished supply as a result of these laws has pushed the cost of shelter higher than ever, straining the pockets of working-class, middle-class, and even some high-income Americans.”

“In certain communities, there is still an intent to segregate by race, so I don’t want to downplay that, but having said that, there’s certainly evidence that the issue of exclusionary zoning is not only about race.

We know in predominantly white communities that wealthy whites will use zoning to exclude lower-income whites. We also know, for example, in Prince George’s County, Maryland, a predominantly Black community, that there are efforts by wealthier Black people to exclude lower-income Black people through exclusionary zoning.

In some white, liberal communities, you will hear people say they are delighted to have a Black doctor or lawyer move in next door. And so they feel virtuous for no longer excluding directly based on race, without acknowledging that they’d be highly uncomfortable with working-class Black people or white people moving into the neighborhood.

So I think it’s important that we recognize that there’s exclusion going on by both race and class, which is why we need some new tools to beef up the existing laws.”