Jackson, in First Supreme Court Opinion, Defends Death Row Inmate
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson released her first opinion since taking office this June—a dissent, arguing in favor of an Ohio death row inmate.
In her dissent, Jackson argued that the court should grant a writ of certiorari in the case of Davel Chinn, an Ohio man convicted of a 1989 murder and sentenced to death. Chinn’s lawyers argued that, during Chinn’s trial, the state suppressed the fact that a key witness to the crime was severely intellectually disabled. By suppressing this information, they claim that the jury had an overinflated view of the witness’s credibility. Jackson’s dissent, in this case, offers a glimpse into her possible future rulings on the Supreme Court—and her eagerness to intervene in due process violations.
While seven members of the Court agreed to deny Chinn’s petition, Jackson, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, dissented the denial. Jackson argued that several lower courts pinned the outcome of the case on the testimony of Marvin Washington—whose IQ was estimated at only 48. For example, even while denying Chinn’s appeal, the Ohio Supreme Court said “if the jury accepted Washington’s testimony, the jury was certain to convict [Chinn], but if the jury did not believe Washington, it was certain to acquit [Chinn] of all charges.” Yet, Jackson also noted that “when confronted during state postconviction procee
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