SCOTUS Reverses Where State Limited Evidence of Third Party Guilt

by TChris

States from time to time attempt to craft their rules of evidence or procedure, either legislatively or judicially, to make the prosecution's case easier to prove while disadvantaging criminal defendants. Like many states, South Carolina has a rule limiting the circumstances under which a defendant can introduce evidence that a third party is actually the guilty culprit. The South Carolina Supreme Court expanded that rule by disallowing evidence of third party guilt when there is strong forensic evidence pointing to the defendant's guilt.

In a unanimous opinion authored by its newest Justice, the U.S. Supreme Court today reversed the conviction of Bobby Lee Holmes. Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to present a defense, and while that right may be balanced against reasonable rules of evidence and procedure, South Carolina went too far in its attempt to rig the system in the prosecution's favor. The South Carolina court assumed that the forensic evidence was so strong as to negate the evidence that someone else was guilty, but didn't seem to notice the defense evidence that substantially weakened the probative value of the forensic evidence.

The holding is such a no-brainer that it tells us little about Justice Alito or the Chief Justice, although this is the kind of case that might have provoked a lone dissent from the extraordinarily pro-prosecution Chief Justice Rehnquist. The decision is here.

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  • Re: SCOTUS Reverses Where State Limited Evidence o (none / 0) (#1)
    by caramel on Mon May 01, 2006 at 11:18:14 AM EST
    What a brilliant ruling, 9-0, that's amazing!

    Re: SCOTUS Reverses Where State Limited Evidence o (none / 0) (#2)
    by Che's Lounge on Mon May 01, 2006 at 11:28:27 AM EST
    Gee that's a tough one. How can I get that job? I can't believe this even HAD to go to the SC. Don't worry, we won't be flooded with the "mysterious dude" defense. See "The Dream Team".

    Re: SCOTUS Reverses Where State Limited Evidence o (none / 0) (#4)
    by wishful on Tue May 02, 2006 at 08:11:20 AM EST
    The Devil's Advocate in me just asked, "Do you think Alito knows something about the projected criminal defense strategies of our current Administration's "Future Felons of America Club"?