Supreme Court Decides New Disability Argument Does Not Warrant Right To Reopen Post-Conviction Proceedings

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the lower courts’ decisions that David Keen, an inmate currently on death row, could not reopen his post-conviction proceeding to assert that he was intellectually disabled.

In 1990, Keen raped and murdered an eight-year-old girl in Shelby County. He pleaded guilty to both offenses, and in 1991, a jury sentenced him to death. Even though state law at the time prohibited executing intellectually disabled persons, Keen did not assert that he was intellectually disabled. The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed Keen’s conviction in 1994 and affirmed his death sentence in 2000. Mr. Keen later filed an unsuccessful petition for post-conviction relief but again did not assert that he was intellectually disabled.

Nineteen years after his original death sentence, Keen asserted for the first time that he is intellectually disabled. He insisted that the courts should permit him to reopen his post-conviction proceeding to present new evidence that he was intellectually disabled. Both the Criminal Court for Shelby County and the Tennessee Court of Criminal appeals rejected this claim.

The Supreme Court, in an opinion authored by Justice William C. Koch, Jr., ruled that the statute permitting inmates to reopen their post-conviction proceedings did not apply to Keen’s claims. While the statute permits reopening a post-conviction proceeding when there is new scientific evidence that the inmate is “actually innocent of the offense,” the Court held that Keen was not now claiming that he had not raped and murdered his victim. The Court also ruled that Keen could not take advantage of the statute that permits reopening a post-conviction proceeding after the court announces a new constitutional right.

Dissenting from the majority opinion, Chief Justice Gary R. Wade disagreed with the Court’s interpretation of the statute permitting inmates to reopen post-conviction proceedings. Noting that inmates’ constitutional right of due process requires a meaningful opportunity to present post-conviction claims, Chief Justice Wade concluded that the statute should be interpreted to allow inmates to present claims of actual innocence based on newly discovered evidence demonstrating ineligibility for the death penalty.

To read the David Keen v. State of Tennessee opinion, authored by Justice William C. Koch, Jr., visit the opinions section of TNCourts.gov.


Liz Tapp Joins Widgets And Stone As Art Director

Widgets & Stone announce that Liz Tapp has joined the company as art director. Ms. Tapp has an 11-year history of print, digital and presentation design, most recently in California, where she served as a graphic designer at BAR Architects in San Francisco. She previously worked in Chicago as lead designer for Oral Health America, a national non-profit, and for Sponge Chicago, ... (click for more)

IBEW Local 175’s Barry Key Retires As Business Manager; Former Assistant Business Manager Gary Watkins Steps Into Position

After 42 years of membership in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 175, including 12 years as an assistant business manager, and eight years as business manager/financial secretary, Barry Key formally retired on Aug. 31.  His position will now be filled by Gary Watkins, who has served as an assistant business manager since 1995. Universally acknowledged ... (click for more)

Hutcheson Medical Center May Get Bankruptcy Trustee Who Would Focus On Sale Of Fort Oglethorpe Hospital

Hutcheson Medical Center may be headed for appointment of a bankruptcy trustee, who would focus on the sale of the financially-strapped Fort Oglethorpe hospital. An attorney told a bankruptcy court judge in Rome, Ga., on Wednesday afternoon that a buyer is discussing paying over $20 million for all the assets of the community hospital. Attorney Rob Williamson ... (click for more)

Hutcheson Medical Center Unsecured Creditors Committee Asks Trustee Be Appointed For Fort Oglethorpe Hospital; Asks Bankruptcy Not Be Dismissed

The Unsecured Creditors Committee of Hutcheson Medical Center is opposing a motion by U.S. Trustee Guy Gebhardt for a bankruptcy judge to dismiss the bankruptcy for the financially-ailing Fort Oglethorpe hospital.   Instead, the group is asking Judge Paul Bonapfel to appoint a trustee to oversee the Hutcheson finances. In a 16-page motion, the committee said if the bankruptcy ... (click for more)

Who's Responsible For East Ridge's Stadium? - And Response

There just can be no excuse for East Ridge High School's stadium being in such dangerous condition that it has been condemned.   Where is responsible for this? I know there are a few other stadiums like this as well. And there is no excuse for this.  Building new and beautiful schools, state of the art technology. Top athletic facilities as well. Yet, East Ridge ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Five Straight Days Of Football

If I covered my first high school football game as a fledging sports when I was 16 years old, and I am now 66, I figure that’s darn near about a half-century of passes and punts. The mystifying part is that I still get as big of a kick hovering around the game as I did on my very first time so as we usher in the start of the college season with five straight days of games, here ... (click for more)