Is Zach Scruggs Innocent? 5th Circuit: Meh. It Doesn't Matter
Scruggs' habeas appeal asserted that he was actually innocent, he involuntarily pled guilty due to government misrepresentation, and he received ineffective counsel.
Based on the facts, the appellate court determined that the ineffective counsel claim was untimely. The government misconduct argument was similarly dismissed, as the court found it untimely and without merit. Finally, the court reasoned that Scruggs' "actual innocence" didn't matter.
Actual innocence is not a free-standing ground for relief, but "a gateway to consideration of claims of constitutional error that otherwise would be barred." Since Scruggs' constitutional claims failed on the merits, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to consider whether he was actually innocent.
Justice may be blind, but the Fifth Circuit can clearly see its calendar. If you want to preserve your client's shot at appeal based on actual innocence, you need to file a timely constitutional claim.
Posted August 18, 2012 - 4:20 am