WASHINGTON – Today, in Jones v. Hendrix, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled that federally incarcerated people who are actually innocent – because a prior decision of the Supreme Court declared the conduct for which they were convicted was not criminalized by Congress – can be held in prison with no opportunity to petition the courts to be released. This denial of a day in court for individuals imprisoned for conduct that is not a crime is a major blow to fairness and justice nationwide. As Justice Jackson wrote in her dissent, “forever slamming the courtroom doors to a possibly innocent person who has never had a meaningful opportunity to get a new and retroactively applicable claim for release reviewed on the merits raises serious constitutional concerns.”
“Today’s decision denies individuals recourse to claim their innocence and is a devastating affront to basic fairness and justice. This ruling reinforces the injustice baked into an already excessively punitive system of mass incarceration,” said Yasmin Cader, Deputy Legal Director at the ACLU and Director of the Trone Center for Justice and Equality. “Someone can now be held in prison, with no chance of release, for an action the Court itself has determined is not a crime. This ruling leaves legally innocent individuals confined to prison based on antiquated and obsolete convictions, undermining what should be a fundamental tenet of our justice system.”
The ACLU and ACLU of Arkansas filed an amicus brief with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in support of the Petitioner in this case, Mr. Marcus DeAngelo Jones, urging the Court to allow Mr. Jones to present his claim that he is imprisoned for conduct that the Supreme Court has declared does not violate the criminal law.
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