Copyright (c) 2005 Saint Louis University School of Law
Saint Louis University Law Journal
ARTICLE: ACTUAL INNOCENCE AND MANIFEST INJUSTICE
49 St. Louis L.J. 481
LARRY MAY AND NANCY VINER*
One of the most disturbing aspects of the contemporary death penalty jurisprudence in the United States is the reluctance of courts to examine claims of actual innocence of those who are scheduled for execution. To the person on the street, the assumption is that those who are executed are those who are clearly guilty. Yet, as was seen in Illinois in the last few years, it has turned out that many people on death row do not deserve to be there because they did not commit the acts for which they were convicted and sentenced to death. The probability that there will be people executed who are innocent is what caused former Illinois Governor George Ryan to commute the sentences of all of those on death row as he left office. Furthermore, the Missouri Supreme Court has recently overturned the capital conviction of Joseph Amrine, holding that the continued incarceration, and threat of death, of a person who is actually innocent is a "manifest injustice." 3 In this article, we will defend the main argument advanced in the Amrine decision, namely, that denying actual innocence claims is a paradigmatic example of manifest injustice and a denial of substantive due process.
It may seem odd to those who do not know this debate that there is even a controversy here. Surely, on common-sense grounds it is odd that anyone would argue in favor of executing the innocent, as seems to have been the position of the ...
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