The United States Supreme Court says defendants who have exhausted their due process cannot reopen their case. The 6-3 Supreme Court decision was the result of a federal gun case (Jones v. Henrix, 21-857), reported The Associated Press in a June 21, 2023 article.
Writing for the conservative majority, Justice Clarence Thomas declared that people who have exhausted their appeals don’t get another day in court “based solely on a more favorable interpretation of statutory law adopted after [their] conviction became final.”
In the case in question, Marcus De’Angelo Jones was convicted in 2000 for being a felon in possession of a gun and given a 27-year federal prison sentence. His attorney argued that Jones believed that his felon record had been cleared and that he was no longer prohibited from possessing a gun.
Key to Jones’ argument was a 2019 court decision ruling that requires prosecutors in felony gun possession cases to prove that defendants knew they were not allowed to have a weapon. Following this ruling, Jones tried to reopen his case but was denied by a federal appeals court, the AP story said.
A 1996 federal law meant to limit excessive federal appeals, known as AEDPA, was used by the Supreme Court in its ruling when the conservative majority said Jones had exhausted his appeals even in the face of the 2019 decision.
Thomas wrote that only two instances — newly discovered evidence or the new interpretation of a constitutional provision — would authorize Jones to have “a second bite at the apple,” said the article. Given that most federal appeals courts would have allowed Jones to reopen his case based on the new defense, Thomas wrote that this would amount to an “end run around” the 1996 law.
Coupled with other recent court-imposed limits on appeals, dissenting Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson claimed that the ruling has transformed “a statute that Congress designed to provide for rational and orderly process of federal prosecution judicial review into an aimless and chaotic exercise in futility.”