Habeas Corpus and the Death Penalty
The writ of Habeas Corpus, the so-called Great Writ, is a collateral attack on a criminal conviction, which unlike an appeal, which it functionally resembles, is based on facts outside the record on appeal. The classic habeas corpus claim is ineffective assistance of counsel, which requires the petitioner to both show that trial counsel failed to adequately perform in a case and to show what trial counsel could have done that would have made a difference, particularly in the area of presenting evidence that was not presented at trial. Habeas Corpus petitions play an important role in death penalty litigation, where every aspect of a case is scrutinized and challenged, given the ultimate penalty involved. In this course, we will read important state and federal habeas corpus decisions, as well as portions of actual habeas corpus petitions to understand both the theory and practice of state and federal habeas corpus. Topics will include: differences between direct appeal and habeas corpus; major habeas corpus claims, including ineffective assistance of counsel; peculiarities of death penalty habeas corpus; and the relationship between state and federal habeas corpus petitions and federal exhaustion requirements.