The Supreme Court caught us off guard yesterday, issuing a potentially momentous order on a quiet August Monday when we would assume the justices would be off in their RVs or wherever. The court ordered a federal district judge to hear testimony on the claims of death row inmate Tory Anthony Davis that he did not murder a Savannah, Ga., police officer in 1989, as the Fulton County Daily Report explains.
The order itself is just a paragraph, unsigned. It transfers Davis' habeas corpus petition to the U.S. District Court in Georgia and instructs the court to "receive testimony and make findings of fact as to whether evidence that could not have been obtained at the time of trial clearly establishes petitioner's innocence."
Apart from its coming in the middle of August, the order is significant for several reasons. For one, it is the first time in nearly 50 years that the court has ordered a hearing based on a petition for habeas corpus filed directly with the Supreme Court, as opposed to petitions that have come up through the lower courts. "Today this Court takes the extraordinary step -- one not taken in nearly 50 years -- of instructing a district court to adjudicate a state prisoner's petition for an original writ of habeas corpus," wrote a strident Justice Antonin Scalia in a dissent from the order in which Justice Clarence Thomas joined.
For another, it illustrates the dramatic clash among the justices in... [MORE]Sphere: Related Content
Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on August 18, 2009
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