Saturday, 22 November 2008

The notion that finality should trump justice does not comport with fundamental due process- The innocence case of Wayne Tompkins

The purpose of the criminal justice system is to instill
confidence in the public that justice can be and will be served.
The notion that finality should trump justice does not comport
with fundamental due process. It undermines the public’s
confidence in the functioning of the criminal justice system for
individuals to be executed for crimes that they did not commit.
In fact, the State of Florida recognized that the ends of justice
should trump finality when the legislature adopted legislation
that permitted exculpatory DNA testing to be conducted and, in
doing so, overturn long final convictions. Abandoning the pursuit
of justice for the sake of merely closing the file on a criminal
case undermines the public’s confidence in the reliability of the
criminal justice system
In Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390 (1993), and Schlup v.
Delo, 513 U.S. 298 (1995), the Supreme Court recognized that when
a capital petitioner presents compelling evidence of innocence to
the federal courts, the ends of justice may require this evidence
to be presented and considered despite procedural and technical
requirements that might otherwise foreclose its presentation. To
do otherwise, would violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments
to the United States Constitution. Accordingly, the United States
Supreme Court has recognized that the ends of justice may warrant

habeas relief in federal courts even when the principle of
finality would otherwise say it is too late.
Certainly, in the years following the Supreme Court’s
decisions in Herrera and Schlup, the country and the courts
throughout the states have come to realize the fallibility about
our system of justice. Here in Florida, there have been
exonerations in cases involving decades-old convictions. Even
persons convicted and sentenced to death have proven that their
convictions were unreliable due to compelling evidence of actual
innocence. Some of those cases involved the advances of science,
but others did not. Some, like Mr. Tompkins, have shown that
exculpatory evidence was not heard by the jury that returned the
conviction. The fallibility of the criminal justice system led
the Florida Legislature and Governor to provide for DNA testing
to those convicted of a crime, not matter when the conviction
resulted or what technical and procedural issues would have
precluded those who would have requested testing without the
Florida should recognize that even if no new DNA results are
present, when evidence shows that no reasonable juror would have
found guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the ends of justice cry
out for relief in order to instill the public’s confidence in the
criminal justice system. It should never be too late to exonerate
an innocent individual under either the United States
Constitution or the Florida Constitution.

Over and above the recognition of an ends of justice
exception to procedural bar rules, the Florida Constitution must
preclude the execution of the innocent. Where there is
exculpatory evidence showing a condemned individual is likely
innocent, a death sentence should not be able to be carried out.
The public must know that the criminal justice system is always
concerned with achieving justice.
This Court should recognize that such an exception to the
principle of finality exists under Florida law. The Florida
Constitution must be found to preclude the execution of those who
can make the requisite showing of innocence.
Accordingly, this Court should so recognize and allow Mr.
Tompkins’ claims be heard under an ends of justice analysis. This
Court should also recognize that the execution of the innocent is
unconstitutional and permit Mr. Tompkins to have all of his
exculpatory evidence heard as to his innocence, including the
police report of March 24th identifying Wendy Chancey as the last
person to see Lisa that day.

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