What showing does a federal habeas petitioner needs to make to obtain funding to develop evidence?
The ACLU joined with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers on this amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting a Texas death row prisoner who had not received adequate counsel at his death penalty trial. The prisoner was seeking to present a federal writ of habeas corpus to challenge his death sentence. Invoking a federal statute funding expert services for indigent criminal defendants and prisoners, Ayestas applied for funds to investigate and show his counsel’s ineffective representation in the state court that led to his death sentence. His request was denied in the district court and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court granted the prisoner’s petition for certiorari, asking whether the prisoner was required to show he would succeed on the merits in order to obtain funding to make that showing in the first instance. The CPP/NACDL amicus brief illustrated the importance of this funding to justice for death-row prisoners by highlighting case examples in which funding for investigative or expert services was provided, but would not have been available under the Fifth Circuit’s overly onerous test.