Ketanji Brown Jackson scolds conservative justices over Black teen's appeal of 162-year sentence

Ketanji Brown Jackson scolds conservative justices over Black teen's appeal of 162-year sentence
Ketanji Brown Jackson in 2020 (Wikimedia Commons)

On Tuesday, Associate Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, with an assist from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, issued a dissent that scolded the conservatives on the court for refusing to hear an appeal from a Black man who was sentenced to 162 years for armed robbery when he was a teen because his lawyer screwed up.

Quartavious Davis was arrested in 2010 when he was 19 for a string of robberies in Florida and, due to mandatory sentencing rules at the time, received 162 years after being "convicted of seven counts of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime," reported MSNBC.

Thirteen years later his case was presented to the Supreme Court with his lawyers contending he was ill-served by his attorney at the time who never sought the similar plea bargain that netted his partners in crime 40-year sentences.

As MSNBC's Jordan Rubin wrote, in her dissent Brown Jackson pointed out that courts during the appeal process were split on the merits of the case and the Supreme Court was missing out on a chance to provide guidance.

According to Rubin, "The issue that his case raised is how a defendant shows that he's 'prejudiced' or harmed by his lawyer’s failure, because people need to show not only that their lawyers performed deficiently but that they were harmed by that deficiency."

In her dissent (which can be read here) the newest Supreme Court justice wrote, "The question presented, then, is how can a defendant like Davis show 'prejudice' as a result of this failure?"

Adding, "The Circuits appear to be at odds with respect to this important question," she continued, "The instant case not only implicates a divergence of circuit opinions, but also is an ideal vehicle to evaluate the Eleventh Circuit’s bright-line rule that an adequate showing of prejudice requires an actual plea offer. That important legal question is isolated here; since the Eleventh Circuit assumed deficient performance, so can we."

"Moreover, under the circumstances presented here, it was exceedingly likely that Davis would have prevailed with respect to the prejudice prong if the Eleventh Circuit had not applied that threshold requirement. Davis’s allegations established that a favorable plea agreement was a strong possibility, even though no offer actually materialized, because each of Davis’s five codefendants had lawyers who negotiated favorable plea agreements with respect to the same series of armed robberies," she elaborated.

Concluding, "The Eleventh Circuit gave short shrift to these alleged facts, and others, which suggest that Davis was harmed by his counsel’s failure," she closed with, "This petition presents the Court with a clear opportunity to resolve a Circuit split regarding whether having an actual plea offer is an indispensable prerequisite to making the necessary showing of prejudice. I would grant certiorari to resolve that issue."

You can read more from MSNBC here.

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