We Should Take Our Own Advice

From Pyle v. Kansas (1942):

These documents elaborate the general charges of the application, and specifically allege that “one Truman Reynolds was coerced and threatened by the State to testify falsely against the petitioner and that said testimony did harm to the petitioner’s defense”; that “one Lacy Cunningham who had been previously committed to a mental institution was threatened with prosecution if he did not testify for the State”; that the testimony of one Roy Riley, material to petitioner’s defense, “was repressed under threat and coercion by the State”; that Mrs. Roy Riley and Mrs. Thelma Richardson were intimidated and their testimony suppressed…These allegations sufficiently charge a deprivation of rights guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, and, if proven, would entitle petitioner to release from his present custody. Mooney v. Holohan, 294 U.S. 103.

But then you get Judge Easterbrook writing in Buckley v. Fitzsimmons (1994):

Coercing witnesses to speak, rather than loosening their tongues by promises of reward, is a genuine constitutional wrong, but the persons aggrieved would be Cruz and Hernandez rather than Buckley. Overbearing tactics violate the right of the person being interrogated to be free from coercion. Buckley cannot complain that the prosecutors may have twisted Cruz’s arm, any more than he can collect damages because they failed to read Cruz Miranda warnings (see 919 F.2d at 1244) or searched Cruz’s house without a warrant.

We called this argument “unserious”.  It is that, of course.  But more importantly, it’s wrong on the law, since the 7th circuit in 1994 is bound by Supreme Court precedent from 1942.  Obviously.  And like another issue (prosecutorial inconsistency) that has become oh-so-difficult in our post-modern justice system, that is made plain when you read Pyle v. Kansas.

We should have done that ourselves.  But surely our federal appellate judges – including SCOTUS Justices – should as well.



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Filed under epistemology, wrongful convictions

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