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habeas, habeas corpus, federal jurisdiction, death penalty, capital punishment, sentencing, mental illness, mental health, mental retardation, juvenile, federal jurisdiction, criminal law, criminal procedure, execution, ineligibility, actual innocence, post-conviction


I examine the interaction between what I call 'death ineligibility' challenges and the habeas writ. A death ineligibility claim alleges that a criminally-confined capital prisoner belongs to a category of offenders for which the Eighth Amendment forbids execution. By contrast, a 'crime innocence' claim alleges that, colloquially speaking, a capital prisoner 'wasn’t there, and didn’t do it.' In the last eight years, the Supreme Court has identified several new ineligibility categories, including mentally retarded offenders. Configured primarily to address crime innocence and procedural challenges, however, modern habeas law is poorly equipped to accommodate ineligibility claims. Death Ineligibility traces the genesis of, and suggests an appropriate response to, the new variants of ineligibility - concluding that procedural obstacles should not bar relief for death ineligible claimants.

Publication Citation

95 Cornell Law Review 329 (2010).


Constitutional Law