McQuiggin v. Perkins: Innocence Prevails Over Deadlines


The U.S. Supreme Court recently confirmed that innocence matters in criminal court. While the notion may seem quite obvious, the Court has never found that a prisoner is entitled to habeas relief based on a freestanding actual-innocence claim. Rather, the petition must allege some form of constitutional violation.

In McQuiggin v. Perkins, the Court considered whether innocence matters when a writ of habeas corpus was filed after the time allowed under statute. In a 5-4 decision, the majority concluded that compelling evidence of innocence could overcome an otherwise untimely petition. The complicated Supreme Court decision sparked heated debate amongst the justices, even initiating a scathing dissent from Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Facts of the Case

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) requires state prisoner to file a federal habeas petition within one year, starting from “the date on which the judgment became final.” If the petition alleges newly discovered evidence, the filing deadline is extended to one year from “the date on which the factual predicate of the claim…could have been discovered through…due diligence.”

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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