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.


USDA Rural Development Names Hewitt-Cruz Chattanooga Area Director

USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Goode has named Lisa Hewitt-Cruz director of the agency’s Chattanooga Area Office that serves 10 southeast Tennessee counties.  Ms. Hewitt-Cruz most recently served as the Single Family Housing Team Leader in the Nashville State Office.  "Lisa brings a wealth of hands-on experience to her new management role," said Mr. Goode. ... (click for more)

Street Corner Market At The Clemons Has Grand Opening Wednesday

Street Corner Market at The Clemons will host a grand opening on Wednesday at 9 a.m.   Street Corner Market at The Clemons is at 730 Chestnut St. The 2700 square foot market features fresh produce, craft beer, a deli featuring Boar’s Head Meats, locally roasted Mayfly, Rembrandt’s, and Fleetwood coffees and pastries from the Bluff View Arts District. In addition, ... (click for more)

DA Pinkston Files Petition To Declare 2 Gangs A Public Nuisance

District Attorney General Neal Pinkston filed a petition on Monday asking that two Chattanooga gangs, the Gangster Disciples and the Grape Street Crips, and their members be declared public nuisances. General Pinkston is also "asking that injunctive relief be given to the law-abiding residents of East Lake by establishing a Safety Zone that covers most of their neighborhood." ... (click for more)

2 Boaters Die In Suspected Carbon Monoxide Poisoning On Chickamauga Lake

Two boaters and their pet were pronounced dead at the scene of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning on Chickamauga Lake.  Kristy D. James and Mike L. Richardson of Chattanooga were reported missing to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office earlier in the day by a concerned family member. The boaters had not been heard from since Saturday. Tennessee Wildlife Resources ... (click for more)

Of Course Gangs Are A Public Nuisance

Now, I don't know it all.  Beginning with my parents, folks of all sorts have been actively pointing out my ignorance for more than seven decades now.  So I'm well aware that I don't know it all.  In recent months I've begun to develop an appreciation for the local work of Mr. Neal Pinkston; I've been impressed with several things he's been doing in his official ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Arnold Palmer’s Greatness

This is hardly meant to be flippant but I’d be willing to bet I’ve been in the presence of more great people than anyone you know. I’ve never ranked them, or ever dared to wonder who was the greatest, such as Muhammad Ali or Elvis Presley, but there are two traits that those who reach the highest pinnacle have in common. First, not a one of them was any good at what made them famous ... (click for more)