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Supreme Court Refuses to Correct Factual Error in Capital Case

June 27, 2022, 8:31 PM

The US Supreme Court refused to correct a factual error in an opinion finding two death row inmates couldn’t raise evidence of ineffective counsel during a federal habeas appeal since they didn’t present it in state court.

Without comment or dissent, the justices on Monday denied a request from the attorney representing David Martinez Ramirez and Barry Jones at the high court to remove one line from the May 23 decision.

Ramirez and Jones alleged in federal court that their lawyers in state court were incompetent. The justices said in the ruling authored by Clarence Thomas that the two “do not dispute, and therefore concede, their habeas petitions fail on the state-court record alone.”

Whether the state-court record by itself was sufficient wasn’t an issue addressed by the lower courts, the inmates’ attorney Robert Loeb argued in a motion asking for that one sentence to be removed from the 6-3 decision.

“It is correct to say that Respondent conceded that adequacy of the state record on its own was not before this Court and not relevant to the proceedings in this Court,” Loeb said. “But if this Court intended to suggest a broader concession that would be inaccurate. Nothing Respondents argued to this Court represented a concession about the merits of their habeas petitions if reviewed based on the state-court record alone.”

Arizona Solicitor General Brunn Roysden was amenable to the correction. He filed a letter to the court recommending it change the wording to say “we assume without deciding, for purposes of this decision, that their habeas petitions fail on the state-court record alone.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Lydia Wheeler in Washington at lwheeler@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com