Sotomayor and AEDPA: Blame AEDPA More

The New York Times has an article today about Jeffrey Deskovic, wrongly imprisoned for 16 years in New York for a rape and murder he didn't commit.

His habeas petition was filed four days late due to a mistake by his lawyer and Judge Sonia Sotomayor was one of the Second Circuit judges who ruled against him.

Ms. Sotomayor, along with the other judge on the panel, ruled that the lawyer’s mistake did not “rise to the level of an extraordinary
circumstance” that would compel them to forgive the delay. There was no need to look at the evidence that Mr. Deskovic insisted would
affirm his innocence, they said.

While Sotomayor, in my view, should have taken a more empathetic and real-world view and not insisted on putting procedure over innocence, given that the lawyer did have an explanation (the court clerk had given him the wrong due date), and while penalizing a defendant for a mistake by counsel sucks in general, the major culprit here as we've written many times is AEDPA and the 1 year filing deadline on habeas claims: [More...]

Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, habeas corpus petitions must be submitted no more than a year after a conviction becomes final or, as the courts later determined, no more than a year from the act’s implementation if the conviction became final before that. Mr. Deskovic was convicted in 1990. He had until April 24, 1997, to turn in his request. It arrived four days after that.

In court papers, the lawyer who drafted the petition said that a clerk had provided the wrong deadline. Ms. Sotomayor and her colleague, Judge Rosemary S. Pooler, ruled that the “alleged reliance of Deskovic’s attorney on verbal misinformation from the court clerk” amounted essentially to neglect.

There are plenty of decisions by Judge Sotomayor that are not favorable to the defense. In many, they are not an expression of her personal views, but narrowly tailored to the law and circumstances of the particular case.

To those who believe she is an activist judge who will bend or stretch the law to fit her personal views, this case is but another sign that she won't.

The solution: Get rid of AEDPA. More on Deskovic's case in this 2007 New York Times article and reforms needed here. As TChris wrote here, former Westchester prosecutor Jeannine Pirro largely shares the blame for the Deskovic debacle.

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  • Display: Sort:
    I'm generally inclined to the Sotomayer (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by hairspray on Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 08:04:43 PM EST
    nomination.  However, I hope we don't have any surprises in the Roe v Wade decisions from her.  She will be the 6th Catholic on the bench and a woman who had a rather strict Catholic schooling.  I think Obama could have chosen a pro choice woman that would have been more predictable.  Instead he went for a "two-fer"  Sad to see this political move possibly trump a sure steady vote for choice.

    AEDPA is terrible (none / 0) (#1)
    by Categorically Imperative on Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 02:08:11 PM EST
    But based on your description that's a pretty poor bit of analysis by Sotomayor and the rest of the panel.  To refuse to even entertain Deskovic's actual innocence argument in favor of dismissal based on a technicality does not comport with well-established habeas law, even post-AEDPA.  

    In fact, later in 2000 the Second Circuit issued an opinion authored by Judge Calabresi that held that an argument that the petitioner was actually innocent of his/her sentence (even if guilty of the underlying crime) could suffice to defeat strict application of AEDPA's time bar.

    100% off topic (none / 0) (#2)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 02:12:20 PM EST
    but I thought you'd like this story, Jeralyn:

    Freed Three Strikes You're Out Person released after 15 years.


    The story talks about the good Mr. Dozier is doing with his family (caring for his ailing mother, etc), and his desire to help kids avoid his past fate.

    Deskovic/Sotomayor (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jeff Deskovic on Mon Jun 29, 2009 at 01:20:18 AM EST
    I am Jeff Deskovic. If you agree that what happened to me was a miscarriage of justice and that Judge Sotomayor played a role in perpetuating my wrongful conviction, you can express your support by joining my Facebook group "Judge Sotomayor Put Procedure Over Innocence In Deskovic Wrongful Conviction", encourage others to do so, and post comments in it. Let us get the attention of our country, the US Senators, and President Obama.

    Jeff Deskovic

    you can also read about Jeff's case (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jun 29, 2009 at 01:57:06 AM EST
    at the Innocence Project here and the New York Times here.

    I wrote it up here and TChris here, who aptly notes then Westchester County DA Jeanine Pirro has some 'splaining to do.