William Thomas Zeigler had filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis on Sept 5, 2017. In plain English, he asked the United States Supreme Court for permission to continue his trial proceedings as an indigent person meaning that fees normally associated with a lawsuit or appeal be waived. This request was denied Nov 13, 2017.
Zeigler’s goal is of course to get pre-trail evidence tested with modern technology. Zeigler also seeks legal answers to the following three questions:
- Does a State violate the minimum requirements of procedural due process by refusing to allow DNA testing (that was authorized by state law) when the uncontested (e.g. undisputed) evidence shows that testing is likely to prove whether the defendant is innocent?
- Does a State violate the minimum requirements of procedural due process when it arbitrarily denies DNA testing just because there is a possibility that the testing may be inconclusive (e.g. it will not end the doubt or the dispute because there is no firm conclusion)?
- May a State use novel and speculative theories of guilt that were never presented to a jury to deprive (e.g. deny) a defendant the state-created right to test evidence from his case with DNA technology to overturn a criminal conviction?
The Sixth Amendment: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
The Fourteenth Amendment’s relevant part: No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
In 2017, we cannot deny the importance of DNA.
The US Justice Department‘s website says: “The past decade has seen great advances in a powerful criminal justice tool: deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. DNA can be used to identify criminals with incredible accuracy when biological evidence exists. By the same token, DNA can be used to clear suspects and exonerate persons mistakenly accused or convicted of crimes. In all, DNA technology is increasingly vital to ensuring accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system.”
Mistakes happen and what we thought we knew for sure about biological evidence has changed. The Innocence Project lists case after case of wrongfully convicted people who were completely exonerated by DNA.
The Death Penalty Information Center lists 160 cases in their database with people freed from death row after DNA proved their innocence.
Innocence is not a myth or a fable. It isn’t something we make up like a dream wishing it to be true. Innocent and incarcerated people exist and it is time that we take off our blindfolds, drop the tunnel vision, and embrace the technology that has emerged in the past decades. The fact that Zeigler is still on death row is a shame and frankly, something that should not happen in the United States of America.
Note: There are more than 66 posts on this blog detailing the Zeigler case. Click this link for the line-up. You can easily find Zeigler’s case as he has his own category on my blog. The category drop down menu is in the left margin.