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.



TVA Inspector General Resigns To Be U.S. Attorney For Southern District Of Alabama

The TVA Inspector General, Richard W. Moore, was confirmed by the United States Senate on Sept. 14, as the new U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama after having been nominated by President Donald J. Trump in June of this year. Mr. Moore submitted his resignation letter as Inspector General to President Trump effective the date of his appointment as the ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Chamber Calendar For Sept. 25-29

Here is the calendar for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce for Sept. 25-29: Tuesday, Sept. 26, Government Contracting: Managing the Maze to Get the Contract 9-11:30 a.m. BrightBridge Women’s Business Center: 535 Chestnut St., Ste. 161 Are you ready for government contracting? How to sell your products and services to federal, state and/or local governments. How to register ... (click for more)

Jury Hears About Incident Behind Food Lion That Authorities Say Led To Triple Murders In Lookout Valley

A Criminal Court jury on Thursday was told about an incident behind the Food Lion on Brown's Ferry Road that authorities say was the motive for an April 9, 2014, massacre at a Lookout Valley trailer park. Brandon Jackson said the incident five days earlier involved Derek Morse, who is standing trial on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree ... (click for more)

Firefighters Battle 2-Alarm Apartment Building Fire

More than a dozen people were forced from their homes early Thursday morning when fire broke out in their apartment building.   The Chattanooga Fire Department received the alarm at  2:58 a.m.  and responded to Rainbow Creek Apartments at  7604 Standifer Gap Road  with six fire companies. Seeing a significant amount of fire upon arrival, a ... (click for more)

September Is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

The calendar fills up quickly in September as families return to a packed routine after quieter summer days. Unfortunately, your health might take a backseat to your busy schedule. So make a note on your calendar that September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and remind yourself—or the men in your life—about the importance of a healthy prostate.   Prostate cancer is ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: McQueen & Her TVAAS

If I am reading my Ouija Board right, I suspect the Hamilton County School Board will vote to allow a controversial “partnership” to be formed with the state Board of Education tonight at its monthly meeting. State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen has said she will demand the one-sided partnership to take over the operation of five at-risk schools in Hamilton County and, if ... (click for more)