Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Time limits more important than guilt or innocence.

Richard Lee was convicted by a jury of two counts of "sodomy" with a four-year-old. He filed various motions on the matter, time passed but eventually a district court looked into the matter. According to a recent court ruling: "After conducting several evidentiary hearings over the fall and winter of 2008, it [the district court] granted the petition for a writ of habeas corpus on March 24, 2009, finding that Lee established actual innocence and ineffective assistance of counsel...."

So, what happens when a man is convicted of a crime but shows during later court hearings that he is actually innocent? "The State contends that Lee's petitition for a write of haeas corpus is simply time-barred." Legislators have said that appeals have a time limit regardless of innocence or guilt. What is very troubling about this is that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has said that the time limits trump innocence. "We decline to prolong the inevitable recognition that there is no 'actual innocence' exception to the one-year statute of limitation for filing an original petition for habeas corpus relief."

Here is how the San Francisco Chronicle reports the case:
The Ninth U.S. Circuit of Appeals reinstated an Oregon man's molesting convictions that a federal judge had overturned last year. The judge said Richard R. Lee probably would have been acquitted if his lawyers had been competent and the jury had heard more evidence about the victim's contact with an admitted molester, who was also convicted in the case.

None of that mattered, the court said, because Lee, acting without a lawyer, filed his federal appeal 16 months after the Oregon Supreme Court had turned him down. That meant he missed a one-year deadline set by federal law.

Lee has finished serving his 14-year sentence, but the federal appeal was his last chance to clear his record.

Apparently arbitrary time-limits set by politicians trump innocence. I happen to find that disgusting.