Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

Death Row Inmate Deserves New Hearing, Highest Court Says

Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

Death Row Inmate Deserves New Hearing, Highest Court Says

Article excerpt

The U.S. Supreme Court late last month ruled that Missouri death row inmate Lloyd Schlup may be entitled to a federal court hearing on his claim of innocence in the murder of a fellow prisoner.

The court, in a 5-4 vote on Jan. 23, lessened the standard for which prisoners can appeal their death sentence.

The court said that Schlup "must show that it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have found" him "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

This decision lessens the stringent standard of "actual innocence" in Sawyer v. Whitley, which the circuit court used as a precedent in denying Schlup's habeas corpus appeals two years ago.

The Sawyer standard said a petitioner must demonstrate "by clear and convincing evidence that but for a constitutional error, no reasonable juror would have found" him guilty.

SJR first investigated Schlup's claim of innocence in October 1993, and found evidence supporting the theory that Schlup was a victim of mistaken identity.

At that time, electronically enhanced surveillance camera footage and new testimony comprised updated evidence that could exonerate Schlup.

Immediately after the story broke, a former prison guard, Robert Faherty, came forward after reading the article. Faherty supported Schlup's claim that he was in the prison's dining hall when the crime took place.

The court took Faherty's remarks into consideration when deciding the case.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the majority opinion for the court with justices Sandra Day O'Connor, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer joining. …

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