Supreme Court Agrees to Consider Third Death Penalty Case Involving Issues of Innocence

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed yesterday to review the case of a death row inmate from South Carolina who was denied the opportunity at trial to present evidence of the possible guilt of another person.  In Holmes v. South Carolina, No. 04-1327, the Court will consider whether the state's rules regarding such evidence deprived Holmes of his due process rights to present a complete defense.  In 2004, the South Carolina Supreme Court had ruled that the state's evidence against Holmes was so strong that he should not be allowed to present evidence that another person had been seen near the scene of the crime and had confessed to the murder that Holmes was charged with.  One judge dissented, saying that Holmes should have been allowed to put on evidence of third-party guilt because Holmes had sufficiently challenged the state's evidence against him.  See the South Carolina decision in State v. Holmes.

In its coming term starting on October 3, the U.S. Supreme Court will also hear House v. Bell, concerning the standard of evidence needed for a new claim of innocence, and Oregon v. Guzek, concerning the right to put on evidence of innocence during the penalty phase of a capital trial.

(DPIC, Sept. 28, 2005).  See Supreme Court and Innocence.