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.


Bradley Square Mall Hosts Mommy And Me Kid's Talent And Fashion Show

Bradley Square Mall will host the  Mommy and Me Kid's Talent and Fashion Show on Saturday, Nov. 8, at 3 p.m. All participants must have a signed pre-registration form filled out and submitted prior to the event. Registration forms my be picked up at Guest Services, Ashton Manor or downloaded from  here. Registration forms are due by  Friday, Oct. 31 . (click for more)

SIGNIX Hires New Vice President Of Partner Development

SIGNiX , a company that provides secure and simple digital signature services announced the hiring of its new Vice President of Partner Development, Leonora Zilkha Williamson. Ms. Williamson will work to identify and target potential partners in a variety of industries.  SIGNiX has long been a partner-centric company that focuses on providing total solutions to software ... (click for more)

2 People Shot Saturday Night On Carousel Road

Two people were shot Saturday evening on Carousel Road. At  9:11 p.m. , Chattanooga Police responded to 1406 Carousel Road on a call of a person shot. One victim on the scene suffered minor injuries.  Another victim was transported by personal vehicle to a local hospital. The s econd victim suffered non-life-threatening injuries.  The suspect ... (click for more)

Teenager Killed In ATV Accident Thursday Night

Damon Lee Jones, 15, was killed Thursday night in an ATV accident in Walker County. It was reported he was riding with a 17-year old, when they tried to enter a church parking lot, but ran into a cable barrier. The accident happened on Dunwoody Road in LaFayette. The other rider, identified as Timothy J. Wallin, was not injured.   (click for more)

Tom Dugan Was A Good Man

Tom was my boss for most of my 36 years at Carta.  At the ceremony where I was awarded my 30-year service award, Tom said, "Don disagrees with 85% of my decisions, but I wish I had 80 more employees just like him." This kind of indicates our relationship. When I asked him to help with my plans for a reunion for the group of Veterans that I served with in Vietnam, he quickly ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: More Sunday Funnies

On the last Sunday before Daylight Savings Time disappears next week, let’s go to my jokes back for some grins and giggles: * * * An old gentleman was on the operating table awaiting surgery and he insisted that his son-in-law, a renowned surgeon, perform the operation.  As he was about to get the anesthesia, he asked to speak to his son-in-law. “Yes, Dad, what is ... (click for more)