Supreme Court sides with Arizona in death penalty cases

In a 6-3 ruling May 23, the Supreme Court said two Arizona death-row inmates could not present new evidence of ineffective counsel they said they received in state trials during their federal appeals.

The inmates have argued that their lawyers failed to present evidence that could have exonerated them from death sentences.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing the majority opinion, stressed that “only rarely may a federal habeas court ear a claim or consider evidence that a prisoner did not previously present to the state courts.”

The dissent, written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, called the court’s decision both perverse and illogical and also said it showed an indifference to violating the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a fair trial.

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