News Release ~ 06/15/1998

'Actual Innocence' May Be Constitutional Ground For Appeal

Statement of NACDL President Gerald B. Lefcourt

Washington, DC (June 15, 1998) -- The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers applauds today's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hohn v. United States, No. 96-8986, holding that the Court has jurisdiction to hear the a claim of actual innocence by a federal prisoner whose certificate of appeal of his post-conviction motion is denied in a federal appellate court. NACDL's friend-of-the-court brief supporting Petitioner Arnold Hohn was argued by Edward Chikofsky, New York City.

NACDL President Gerald B. Lefcourt, New York City, issued the following statement explaining the importance of today's decision:

"The irony of this case is that even the Solicitor General of the United States agreed with our position that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to review erroneous denials of post-conviction claims, at least where the petitioner may actually be innocent. Congress was ill-advised in restricting the availability of the writ of habeas corpus and federal post-conviction relief. But it's unthinkable to imagine, as the lower court held, that Congress permanently closed the door to further review of a claim of innocence by an American citizen."

[Click Here] for the text of the Supreme Court's decision.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 9,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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