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Criminal

United States Supreme Court Instructs Federal Courts to "Look Through" Summary Opinions to Determine Reasonableness

On April 17, 2018, Justice Breyer announced the opinion for the United States Supreme Court in Wilson v. Sellers. At issue was how to determine whether a state court’s decision was reasonable if the state court did not explicitly provide the rationale for its decision. The Court instructed federal courts to “look through” a summary opinion to the most recent reasoned state court decision.

Supreme Court Grants Relief to Capital Defendant Whose Lawyer Admitted Guilt Over His Client’s Wishes

The United States Supreme Court decided McCoy v. Louisiana on May 14, 2018. Justice Ginsburg, writing for the six members of the majority, granted relief to Louisiana death row prisoner Robert McCoy, whose trial attorney repeatedly told the jury that his client was guilty, even though Mr. McCoy had urged him not to do so. Three justices–Justices Alito, Thomas, and Gorsuch–dissented and would have denied relief.

Notable Case Outcomes

Death Penalty

William Montgomery Granted Clemency Amid Concerns About Reliability of Conviction

On April 11, 2018, the state of Ohio was scheduled to execute William Montgomery for the 1986 murders of Cynthia Tincher and Debra Ogle. In the weeks preceding the execution, advocates for Montgomery launched an increasingly public-facing media campaign with the tagline, #toomuchdoubt. Montgomery’s attorneys and supporters argued that there were too many questions concerning Montgomery’s guilt in the case to allow the execution to proceed.

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About Project Press

Project Press is the newsletter of the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project. Each issue contains news about the Project, clients in need of pro bono assistance, death penalty cases and opinions, training opportunities, and much more!