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Supreme Court rulings make conviction challenges easier

Though the criminal justice system is constructed in such a way that innocent persons are most often acquitted or otherwise released from their initial charges, sometimes individuals who have committed no wrongdoing are convicted of criminal activity. In addition, sometimes individuals who have committed criminal acts but who should not have been convicted due to improper evidence gathering and other various problematic contributory factors are wrongfully convicted as well.

Even when a strong criminal defense is constructed on their behalf, these individuals slip through cracks in the system. Thankfully, a narrow Supreme Court majority has now made it easier for certain affected individuals to challenge their convictions in court. In particular, two recent Court rulings clarify the ability of certain individuals to have their cases reviewed under a miscarriage of justice exception to a federal law passed in 1996.

This law insists that convicted persons have a one-year filing deadline to submit any state court conviction for federal review. However, the Court has now ruled that this strict deadline may be relaxed in cases involving new and compelling evidence of a convicted person’s innocence. Though this exception may not be available to everyone, it should help to facilitate the ability of innocents to have their cases reviewed when new evidence becomes available.

The criminal justice system does not function perfectly. But when the highest court in the land helps to pave the way for innocent persons to be set free, a step in the right direction has most certainly been taken.

Source: New York Times, “Divided Court, in 2 Rulings, Makes It Easier to Challenge Criminal Convictions,” Adam Liptak, May 28, 2013

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