Ketanji Brown Jackson

Ketanji Jackson supports death row inmate in his first opinion

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson objected Monday, her first opinion since she took office in the summer, to the Supreme Court’s decision to not side with an Ohio death row prisoner’s claim.

Jackson was joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a fellow liberal, to say that the court should have ruled in favor of Davel Chinn who was convicted for a 1989 Dayton murder during a robbery. The court instead rejected Chinn’s appeal.

Chinn’s lawyers argued against the prosecution withholding evidence that Marvin Washington, a key witness in the case, was mentally disabled and had an IQ of 48. Washington had identified Chinn as the shooter.

Jackson wrote an opinion disapproving of the court’s rejection of Chinn’s claim that “no doubt” the state had suppressed evidence that would have undermined Washington’s credibility as a witness. This conduct is considered a violation of due process under Brady v. Maryland (a 1963 Supreme Court decision).

Jackson criticized a February ruling of the 6th U.S. from Cincinnati. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state, despite Jackson pointing out that the 6th U.S. from Cincinnati did not properly examine whether Washington’s evidence affected the trial outcome.

Jackson wrote, “Because Chinn is at risk and given the substantial possibility that the suppressed documents would have changed court at trial… I would summarily invert.”

President Joe Biden appointed Jackson to replace Justice Stephen Breyer (a liberal) who retired this summer.

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