Ketanji Brown Jackson

Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson poses for an official photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on October 7, 2022. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

Jackson Issues First Dissent Over Supreme Court Refusal to Hear Death Row Appeal

The justice wrote that she would have ordered a new review of Davel Chinn's case because his life "is on the line, and given the substantial likelihood that the suppressed records would have changed the outcome at trial."

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said Monday in her first U.S. Supreme Court opinion--a dissent--that she would have heard the appeal of a man facing execution following a trial in which the prosecution likely suppressed evidence.

Jackson's dissent from the high court's refusal to hear the appeal of Davel Chinn--an Ohio death row inmate convicted of shooting and killing a man named Brian Jones during an attempted robbery in 1989--was joined by left-wing Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

In her two-page opinion, Jackson wrote that "because Chinn's life is on the line, and given the substantial likelihood that the suppressed records would have changed the outcome at trial based on the Ohio courts' own representations... I would summarily reverse to ensure that the 6th Circuit conducts its materiality analysis under the proper standard."

CBS Newsreports:

Chinn's lawyers argued the state suppressed evidence during his trial showing that its primary witness, Marvin Washington, had an intellectual disability that led to substantial memory problems and affected his ability to distinguish between reality and things he imagined. Washington, who was 15 years old at the time, admitted his involvement in the fatal shooting of Brian Jones, according to court filings, and provided officers with a description of Chinn.

The man's lawyers, however, argued the information about Washington would have made a difference in the outcome of Chinn's case.

"Without Marvin Washington, that state's evidence was not strong enough to sustain confidence in either Chinn's conviction or death sentenced," attorneys at the Ohio Public Defender's Office told the Supreme Court.

Chinn's lawyers argued that the prosecution's omission violated his rights under Brady v. Maryland, the landmark Supreme Court ruling establishing that prosecutors must disclose any evidence that could benefit defendants.

However, lower courts contended that Chinn failed to meet Brady's standard, which holds that evidence is only "material" if there is a reasonable probability its disclosure would result in a different trial outcome. The condemned man's attorneys say it would.

"Justices Jackson and Sotomayor recognized the injustice in upholding Davel Chinn's conviction and death sentence when the state suppressed exculpatory evidence that, based on the Ohio courts' own representations, was likely to result in an acquittal," Rachel Troutman, an attorney for Chinn, said in a statement. "Ohio must not exacerbate the mistakes of the past by pursuing Mr. Chinn's execution."

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