New empirical research shows that, since AEDPA, the likelihood of success in non-capital federal habeas corpus has dropped to less than one percent. Federal habeas courts continue to be concerned about the wrongful conviction of innocent defendants, but their role in such cases must be redefined. Habeas courts are structurally incapable of effectively screening and investigating claims of wrongful conviction; these responsibilities are better performed by extrajudicial actors such as innocence projects, innocence commissions, law school clinics, volunteer lawyers, and the media. The proper role of habeas is to provide a clear path to relief, unencumbered by procedural restrictions, for petitioners who can produce clear and convincing new evidence of innocence. The Supreme Court should help to create such a path by finally acknowledging the constitutional status of “bare innocence” claims based on new evidence.
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