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CRIMINAL PRACTICE in a case of first impression, the Missouri Supreme Court held on April 29 that a man convicted of murder who makes a freestanding claim of actual innocence is entitled to habeas corpus relief from his conviction and a resultant death sentence. Amrine v. Roper, No. SC84656. Prison inmate Joseph Amrine was convicted of murdering a fellow convict. After the trial, several witnesses who testified against Amrine recanted. Ruling on his habeas petition, the state Supreme Court said that where post-conviction evidence obliterated any credible evidence that had supported the conviction, an extraordinary circumstance was created such that “manifest injustice” would result unless habeas relief was granted. It explained that Missouri left a state avenue open to process this claim, having adopted a standard whereby a showing of “actual innocence” is a “gateway” to review on the merits of an otherwise defaulted constitutional claim and that relief is available even though there is no claim that the Constitution was violated at trial. Noting that a petitioner must make a “clear and convincing” showing of actual innocence that undermines confidence in the correctness of the judgment, the court concluded that Amrine had made such a showing. n GOVERNMENT

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