Changed Science Writs and State Habeas Relief
49 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2020
Date Written: February 01, 2020
For decades now, the 1996 federal Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) has limited the scope and influence of federal courts in post-conviction case review, forcing convicted individuals to rely instead on state habeas proceedings for conviction relief. Due in large part to the 2009 National Academy of Sciences Report, petitions for conviction relief increasingly include challenges to the government’s scientific evidence at trial. These petitions analyze said evidence by comparing the trial evidence to the advancement of scientific knowledge in the years since the trial. State habeas petitions thus provide an avenue for relief from misused and misrepresented scientific evidence.
State courts, however, can only reexamine faulty scientific evidence, and reverse unconstitutional convictions, if the legislature provides the tools to do so. One such tool is the ability to review post-conviction relief petitions based specifically on faulty science, a tool known as changed science writs.
This Article reviews the growth of state-level changed science writs and examines how other states can adopt this tool to review habeas petitions based on scientific evidence. This Article posits that changed science writs both incentivize greater reliability of evidence at trial by creating a process of review, and help to identify wrongful convictions based on inaccurate, misrepresented, or faulty scientific evidence.
Keywords: Forensic, Evidence, Criminal, AEDPA, Post-Conviction, Habeas
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