Brief Fact Summary. Petitioner Herrera was convicted for the murder of two officers. As his execution approached, he produced evidence that he was innocent, and that another was responsible.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. “Petitioner’s showing of innocence, and indeed his constitutional claim for relief based upon that showing, must be evaluated in the light of the previous proceedings in this case.”
Issue. Whether a showing of innocence requires a federal habeas proceeding under the Eight and Fourteenth Amendments.
Held. No. The Supreme Court of the United States admitted that the notion that the Constitution “prohibit[s] the execution of a person who is innocent” has an “elemental appeal.” However, the Supreme Court had to take into account that “guilt” and “innocence” ‘must be determined in some sort of a judicial proceeding.”
The Supreme Court first established that the presumption of innocence disappears after conviction. In this case, “petitioner claims that evidence never presented to the trial court proves him innocent notwithstanding the verdict.” Simply put, the petitioner “is simply not entitled to habeas relief based on the reasoning of this line of cases. For he does not seek excusal of a procedural error so that he may bring an independent constitutional claim challenging his conviction or sentence, but rather argues that he is entitled to habeas relief because newly discovered evidence shows that his conviction is factually incorrect.” The Court ultimately concluded that the evidence, “coming 10 years after petitioner’s trial,