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On May 28, 2013, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Trevino v. Thaler and McQuiggin v. Perkins. Both cases involve procedural issues relating to habeas proceedings.
The question in Trevino involved the Court’s 2012 decision Martinez v. Ryan, which holds that ineffective assistance of counsel in state post-conviction proceedings--with regard to claims that could not be raised on direct appeal--excuses the defendant’s failure to raise such claims in the state post-conviction proceedings, and therefore allows him to raise them for the first time in a subsequent federal habeas proceeding. The question in Trevino was whether Martinez applies when it is unclear under state law whether the claims in question could have been raised on direct appeal.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Breyer, the Court held by a vote of 5-4 that the good cause exception in Martinez does apply when a State’s procedural framework, by reason of its design and operation, makes it highly unlikely in a typical case that a defendant will have a meaningful opportunity to raise an ineffective assistance-of-trial-counsel claim on direct appeal. Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan joined the majority opinion. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justice Alito. Justice Scalia also filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justice Thomas.
The question in McQuiggin was whether, under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, there is an actual-innocence exception to the requirement that a petitioner show an extraordinary circumstance that “prevented timely filing” of a habeas petition, and if so, whether there is an additional actual-innocence exception to the requirement that a petitioner demonstrate that “he has been pursuing his rights diligently.”
In an opinion delivered by Justice Ginsburg, the Court held by a vote of 5-4 that actual innocence, if proven, serves as a gateway through which a habeas petitioner may pass in spite of any procedural bars. The untimeliness of a petition in such cases, the Court explained, should be treated as a factor bearing on the reliability of evidence purporting to show actual innocence. Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan joined the majority opinion. Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas, and by Justice Alito in Parts I, II and III.
To discuss the cases, we have Ward Campbell, who is the Supervising Deputy Attorney General at the California Department of Justice. Mr. Campbells’s views are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of California Department of Justice.