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Current Habeas Corpus Issues

NCJ Number
New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement Volume: 15 Issue: 1 Dated: (Winter 1989) Pages: 1-25
K Maniscalco
Date Published
25 pages
This paper examines the transformations of habeas corpus and its governing law, with a focus on procedural defaults.
The paper examines the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Fay v. Noia (1963), Wainwright v. Sykes (1977), and Murray v. Carrier (1986) to show that the Court used the issues of sandbagging, attorney inadvertence, and the attorney's binding power over the defendant to yield its desired result in narrowing the scope of habeas review, thereby curtailing the number of petitions to be granted by Federal courts. All of the decisions were rendered to deter the attorney from acting in a given way. "Fay," however, offers a realistic measure of protection of the habeas petitioner by enforcing intentional but not inadvertent procedural defaults. The threat of a more "airtight system of forfeitures" would deprive the habeas petitioner of the opportunity to litigate. Moreover, if the State's interest in finality is not sufficient to defeat a meritorious novel claim, there is no reason why a defendant should be bound to his/her counsel's inadvertence and therefore forfeit the client's claim. The Court clearly has created a maze of procedural hurdles and forfeitures, losing sight of the intention of habeas corpus, i.e., the prevention of unlawful incarceration. 167 footnotes.


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