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.


Tennessee Regulatory Authority Changes Name To Tennessee Public Utility Commission

Governor Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly approved legislation this month that changes the name of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) to the Tennessee Public Utility Commission (TPUC). The bill was sponsored by State Senator, Jack Johnson and State Representative, Pat Marsh during the 2017 Tennessee General Assembly’s legislative session and it became effective ... (click for more)

Tennessee Tax Revenue For March Released

Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin announced Monday that Tennessee tax revenue fell short of budgeted estimates in March. March sales tax revenues reflect retail activity occurring in February, and overall March revenues were $993.6 million, which is $100.9 million less than we collected in March of 2016 and $70.1 million less than the budgeted estimate ... (click for more)

2 People Shot In Chattanooga Overnight; Dequan Duke In Serious Condition; Frank Russell Has Minor Injury

Two people were shot overnight in Chattanooga.   Dequan Jamal Duke, 24, was in serious condition.   Frank Russell, 22, had a minor injury in a separate incident.   Chattanooga Police responded at 8:40 p.m. on Tuesday to a person shot at 2300 Wilson St.   The victim, Dequan Duke, arrived at a local hospital via a personally owned vehicle ... (click for more)

City Vows Lincoln Park To Be Preserved Despite Major Road, Sewer Projects

City officials vowed on Tuesday that Lincoln Park will be preserved despite a major road extension and sewer relocation planned nearby. Maura Sullivan, the city's chief operating officer, said the Trust for Public Land will hold public meetings geared around ideas for refurbishing the African-American park that once featured ball fields, a swimming pool and other attractions. ... (click for more)

Don't Clog Up The Last Remaining Semi-Unobstructed Route Into Town From North Of The River - And Response

The proposal to turn Hixson Pike in Riverview into a more pedestrian friendly street is more than absurd.   Let's be honest. This is the last semi-unobstructed route into town from north of the river, due to I-27 construction and the bike lane/parking lot that is North Market Street.  So, now the businesses in Riverview would like parking on this main artery? ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A One-Sided Opportunity

State education commissioner Candace McQueen has apparently fallen and hit her head. She most certainly needs to be examined after she came to Chattanooga on Monday and told the Times-Free Press about an exciting “partnership.” Are you kidding me? Despite the newspaper’s editors actually touting the venture as “promising,” the lady is clearly dancing by herself. With her Achievement ... (click for more)