The Safety Net: Applying Coram Nobis Law to Prevent the Execution of the Innocent
26 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2011
Date Written: August 10, 2011
The article argues that there is a crisis of erroneous capital sentencing and that the insufficiency of alternative remedies makes the common law writ of “coram nobis” an overlooked and effective legal procedure when arguably exculpatory evidence is discovered after trial. It reviews the history and current use of coram nobis, both nationwide and particularly in Tennessee. Tennessee is a useful case study because it has the highest percentage of death penalty sentences reversed due to serious error. The article asserts as a legal standard for relief a finding of “reasonable probability” that the newly discovered evidence would have changed the initial trial outcome. It compares this approach to the approach taken in some other states and in the federal system, and raises policy concerns arguing for the “reasonable probability” approach.
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