While the U.S. Supreme Court will be taking up many difficult issues in this term, it has one case on its docket that should be easy. That case, Shinn v. Ramirez, asks whether a state can execute a person without ensuring he or she ever received a fair trial. Arizona says that it can. If adopted, the state’s position would cause incalculable damage to public confidence in the criminal justice system.
Arizona argues, contrary to every federal court of appeals to have considered the question, that even when a state provides criminal defendants with grossly ineffective counsel both at trial and during state post-conviction review of that trial, those individuals should be effectively blocked in federal court from obtaining relief from even the most egregious errors in their convictions and sentences.