Supreme Court Limits Appealing Prisoners’ Rights to Search for New Evidence

Shoop v. Twyford, 596 U.S. _ (2022)

Primary Ruling: An order allowing a prisoner to search for new evidence is not “necessary or appropriate in aid” of a federal court’s adjudication of a habeas corpus action. A prisoner must first show that the desired evidence would be admissible in connection with a claim for relief.

This is a very technical ruling but has broad implications for habeas corpus claims. An appellant searching for new evidence shows that the evidence would be admissible and relevant to their appeal.

In this case, the appellant (Twyford) was sentenced to death for aggravated murder. The state courts upheld both the conviction and sentence and denied post-conviction relief. Specifically, the appellant claimed ineffective assistance of counsel because his lawyer did not present evidence of head trauma. On its face, this is straightforward enough since an attorney is not obligated to present any particular piece of evidence when determining trial strategy.

Nevertheless, the Ohio district court ordered the appellant transported for neurological testing to uncover potential evidence for his claim under the All Writs Act. [federal courts must “issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions.” 28 U.S.C. 1″ 51(a).] The Sixth Circuit upheld the transport order.

The Supreme Court held that the search for new evidence is not “necessary or “appropriate in aid of” adjudication” of a federal habeas corpus action when the appellant prisoner fails to show that the desired evidence is admissible and relevant to the pending claim for relief. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) limits the development and consideration of new evidence in a habeas claim. Before a federal court grants an evidentiary hearing or “otherwise consider new evidence” under 28 U.S.C. 2254(e)(2), it must determine that the evidence sought is admissible and relevant to the pending case. The All Writs Act does not circumvent statutory requirements or relevant procedural rules. Because the appellant never made a showing that neurological testing could be admissible in his habeas proceedings, the AEDPA Court is limited to “the record that was before the state court.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s