February 23, 2006

Prof Argues Before Supreme Court

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Cornell Prof. John H. Blume, law, argued death penalty case Holmes v. South Carolina before the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday.

Blume argued on behalf of Bobby Lee Holmes, a South Carolina death row inmate accused of beating, raping and robbing Mary Stewart, 86, in 1989. She later died from her injuries.

Holmes is asking the court to reverse an earlier judgment of the South Carolina Supreme Court and order a new trial because the defense was not allowed to reveal at trial that a third party claimed responsibility for the crime.

The question before the court is whether it is a violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to prevent defendants from presenting evidence that a third party committed the crime. The South Carolina court said that the evidence of third party guilt could not “overcome” the forensic evidence given by the state.

“South Carolina’s legal standard for admitting evidence of third-party guilt rule is so stringent that it is tantamount to a categorical rule excluding evidence that someone else committed the crime,” Blume said in a Cornell News Service press release.

According to an AP report, Blume told the justices that the [South Carolina] court’s decision unconstitutionally “stacks the deck” in the prosecution’s favor.

All nine justices took part in the arguments.

A decision is not expected for several months.

Archived article by Sun Staff