Antonin Scalia Is a Dick and Can't Be Bothered, Even If You're Innocent:
Sometimes, the expansive dickishness of Supreme Court Antonin Scalia is breathtaking. Prepping to write a dissent, especially on a 5-4 decision, he must angrily masturbate to flagellation porn, like a good Catholic, until he's just about to orgasm, stop, and then use the shame and rage left behind to craft his response to the liberal(ish) majority. Such is the case in a decision released yesterday in McQuiggin v. Perkins.
The majority said that there is an extremely narrow window through which a defendant can appeal his or her conviction, regardless of the statute of limitations imposed by the federal Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. That standard is "actual innocence." That means, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes, a judge must determine that "it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him in the light of the new evidence." And so a potentially innocent person might go free.
So keep in mind two things: the AEDPA was signed into law by Bill Clinton after it was passed in 1996, an election year, when Democrats were being accused of being pussies about crime post-Oklahoma City bombing, so they went along with Republicans in crafting a law that, among other things, made appeals much more difficult to file. Why? Because "frivolous" appeals were stopping people from being murdered by the state fast enough for the bloodthirsty populace. (Sorry, kids. The Clinton years weren't just about cocksucking and free money.)
The other thing to keep in mind is that the Supreme Court majority is saying that if there's a really, really good chance an innocent person is in prison or on death row, that person deserves a chance to get out, filing deadlines and such be damned. Seems pretty noncontroversial, no?
For Scalia, this is an arrogant insult to the Congress, saying that if the Legislative branch wanted the law to mean this, then they would have said so. In an oh-so-clever metaphor, Scalia writes, "One cannot assume that Congress left room for other, judge-made applications of the actual-innocence exception, any more than one would add another gear to a Swiss watch on the theory that the watchmaker surely would have included it if he had thought of it. In both cases, the intricate craftsmanship tells us that the designer arranged things just as he wanted them." Yeah, but what if adding that gear makes it a better watch? And what if the owner of the watch would have to get executed if the gear wasn't added? And what the fuck? Despite what Big Tony wants us to believe, laws are not blithely functioning machines. They involve people. That's why the fuck there's human judges.
At every turn, Scalia tries to belittle the majority by divorcing the holding - remember, the majority is saying that innocent people should have at least a small chance of proving their innocence - from its real world effects. He says, "By the Court’s logic, a statute banning littering could simply be deemed to contain an exception for cigarette butts; after all, the statute as thus amended would still cover something." (Emphasis Big Tony's.) So for Scalia, there is no statutory difference between human lives and discarded cigarette butts. Point made, sir, point made.
But Scalia is just getting warmed up. "The Court simply ignores basic legal principles where they pose an obstacle to its policy-driven, free-form improvisation," he writes, and at some point you gotta wonder if he does shit like this just to piss off Ginsburg and make Sotomayor laugh at his hubris. The path to the decision is "twisting," he writes, and that the majority "ambushed" Congress, that the majority is impelled by a "vision of perfect justice." Heaven forbid the desire for "perfect justice" if it comes up against the perfect imposition of an unjust law.
Scalia is furious that the Court, in several cases, has "traded the simple elegance of the common-law writ of habeas corpus for federal-court power to probe the substantive merits of state-court convictions" because he believes already overburdened courts will be forced to read more petitions for appeal. Which is bullshit, since the narrow exception probably won't even allow the appeal of Floyd Perkins, the original petitioner. Besides, as Emily Bazelon writes in Slate, "If federal judges have their hands full, then it’s time to fill the many vacancies on the bench." Huh, wonder who's holding that up?
The lesson from Scalia (and Roberts, Alito, and Scalia's appendage) is that innocence is not, in and of itself, enough of a reason to consider overturning a conviction. That's a frightening perspective. And maybe a self-proclaimed Constitutional "originalist" like Scalia would know that it would probably not be shared by the Founders, like, you know, John Adams.