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A tale of two courts

The State of Wisconsin charged 3 young men–Jarrett Adams, Dmitri Henley, and Rovaughn Hill–with 5 counts of second degree sexual assault. Henley and Adams were jointly tried, jointly convicted and sentenced to 20 and 28 years in prison respectively. In a separate trial, Hill presented a new and critical witness to corroborate the defense claimed by all three defendants: the sexual encounter at issue was consensual. Hill’s case ended in a dismissal. Adams and Henley filed postconviction motions alleging that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present the same critical witness at their trial. They lost and filed federal habeas petitions. They lost again. Adams, represented by the Wisconsin Innocence Project, appealed to the Seventh Circuit.

Bill Tyroler’s 2010 On Point post about what happened next is a classic and definitely worth rereading. Suffice it to say that Adams experienced the best of times when the Seventh Circuit found his trial lawyer provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to investigate and call a pivotal witness for the defense. Adams  v. Bertrand, 453 F.3d 428 (7th Cir. 2006).

But it was the worst of times for Henley, who had not appealed. Instead, he filed a motion for a new trial in the interests of justice in state court. His case made it all the way to SCOW, which held that finality in litigation is more important than a fair and just result. State v. Dimitri Henley, 2010 WI 97.

Put simply, the circuit court’s authority to revisit old arguments must end somewhere. While defendants deserve a fair hearing, defendants do not deserve unlimited, duplicative hearings. The fair administration of justice is not a license for courts, unconstrained by express statutory, to do what they think is “fair” at any given point in time. ¶75.

Henley lost. Adams won. Guess what Adams is doing now? According to last week’s ABA Journal, he recently graduated from Loyola University Law School, held dual clerkships with the Seventh Circuit and the Southern District of New York, passed the New York Bar and landed a post conviction litigation fellowship with the Innocence Project launched by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld. Read the full story here.

If anyone knows what became of poor Henley, please post a comment below.

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