You can read at Scotusblog quite a bit of commentary on this most recent entry in the present Court’s war on habeas. At oral argument, the lawyer for the state told the court that “innocence isn’t enough” to merit relief for one of the death-row inmates in this case to gain relief. And the Court now agrees. The reason: the likely innocent inmate’s state-provided postconviction counsel didn’t make a good enough record that his trial counsel was ineffective.
The Court says 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2) denies the inmate the possibility of an evidentiary hearing in the federal courts that could prove up the ineffectiveness of both his trial and postconviction counsel. As the dissent points out, this holding “all but overrules” two recent SCOTUS cases, Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U. S. 1 (2012), and Trevino v. Thaler, 569 U. S. 413 (2013); no surprise given the current majority’s attitude toward stare decisis.
Though the news be grim, it shouldn’t actually affect Wisconsin prisoners; our integrated postconviction procedure means that claims of ineffective assistance of counsel is typically raised on direct appeal, where one has the constitutional right to counsel and the corollary right to effective assistance of appellate counsel. Under Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722 (1991), ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal may permit a federal habeas court to hold an evidentiary hearing on ineffective assistance of trial counsel. It’s the law of the land. For now.