There is a new sheriff in town. Our new Kentucky Supreme Court shows that they believe justice should trump procedure.
By LawReader Senior Editor Stan Billingsley Aug. 23, 2008
In a Fayette County rape conviction, LACY BEDINGFIELD V. COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY, 2007-SC-000128-DG.pdf the Supreme Court overruled the Court of Appeals and granted a new trial based on DNA evidence.
This important decision written by Justice Scott, grants a new trial and discusses in depth the basis upon which new evidence discovered years after the trial and outside the one year rule of CR 60.02 will be dealt with when substantial evidence is presented.
This decision raises DNA evidence to a new level of importance in Kentucky. Evidence of the absence of a defendant’s DNA is also applied in this decision.
This case shows that this Court recognizes that the search for justice should not be hindered by rules of procedure that do not take cognizance of the reliability of newly developed scientific tools.
We cannot fail to note that this decision is contrary to the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthoin Scalia, who wrote in an infamous capital punishment decision, “Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached.”
Correction: see the following follow up re: this Scalia attributed quote:
Barry Miller: Widely published Scalia quote re: “innocence” is inaccurate. We have to agree. Scalia didn’t really ever say: “Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached.”
What Scalia did say was:
“There is no basis in text, tradition, or even in contemporary practice (if that were enough), for finding in the Constitution a right to demand judicial consideration of newly discovered evidence of innocence brought forward after conviction.”
The Kentucky Supreme Court held:
“When newly discovered evidence is of such a nature that it is manifest to the conviction, substantially impacts the testimony of a material witness, or would have probably induced a different conclusion by the jury had the evidence been heard, then assuredly, the interests of justice demand that a criminal defendant is entitled to have such evidence set before the court.
…we are now faced with the question of what weight we should attribute to newly discovered, quasi-exculpatory evidence in the form of DNA data and, thus, whether the post-conviction introduction of such information warrants Appellant’s request for a new trial under these circumstances.”
In the Bedingfield case, the prosecution argued that DNA was found on the victim and this buttressed her claims. Later advances in the testing of DNA revealed that the sperm on the victim was not from the Defendant.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals and the Fayette Circuit Court had denied Bedingfield a new trial basically relying on CR 60.02 time limits.