However, this New York Times story jolted me out of my reverie. The basics of the story are simple: The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals voted 8-7 against the appeal of a man who says he was wrongly convicted of murder. What makes this case unique is that 6 of the 7 dissenting judges don't just disagree with the majority on an arcane point of law, they think the defendant is flat out innocent. The 7th dissenter believes that the new information that has come to light casts at least enough doubt so as to require a new trial. Specifically:
Mr. House was convicted of murdering a neighbor, Carolyn Muncey, in Union County, Tenn., in 1985. The prosecution argued that he had first raped her, saying that semen found on her clothing matched his blood type. The jury cited the rape as a reason for imposing death.
But DNA testing, which was not available at the time, has proved that the semen was that of Mrs. Muncey's husband, Hubert.
At a recent Federal District Court hearing to determine whether Mr. House should be allowed to reopen his case, witnesses testified that Mr. Muncey was an alcoholic who beat his wife. Two witnesses said he had confessed to killing his wife while drunk. A third witness said he had asked her to supply him with an alibi for the murder. Three others also implicated Mr. Muncey, who denied the accusations.
I'm stunned that anyone could conclude at this point that Mr. House is guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt at this point. "This is unprecedented," said Eric M. Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra University. "A case in which six judges find that the defendant didn't do the crime is more than just a legal curiosity. In any rational legal universe, there is now at least reasonable doubt about the defendant's guilt."
Unfortunately, we don't live in a rational legal universe. We live in the United States, where innocence presents no barrier to ol' sparky.
The case is likely to be appealed to the US Supreme Court.