Not All Evidence is the Same: Habeas Corpus and Actual Innocence. A Practically Unusable Exception for Fundamental Miscarriages of Justice?

Olexa, Samantha C. | April 18, 2023

For many, being convicted of a crime they did not commit would be a living and breathing nightmare. However, for some American prisoners, that nightmare is an unfortunate reality. Although reform focused on how an innocent individual came to be wrongfully convicted—via prosecutorial inaccuracies, forensic and eyewitness errors, jailhouse informants, forced confessions and inadequate representation—and how to prevent it in the future has seen success in recent years, the American legal system continues to fail those currently incarcerated trying to prove their innocence. When seeking habeas relief, the utmost hurdle in proving actual innocence is what type of “new” evidence should be used in order for the actual innocence gateway exception to apply. Defining what constitutes “new” evidence in this context has caused a significant split, causing circuits to apply either a newly presented or newly discovered standard. However, implementing yet another barrier to actual innocence claims under the newly discovered view directly contradicts the intended purpose of the innocence gateway and thus, this Article explores and promotes unilateral application of the newly presented standard.