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Ketanji Brown Jackson initially sided with death row inmate

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Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote on Monday: her first opinion since taking office in the summer, challenging the Supreme Court’s decision not to side with the Ohio death row inmate’s claim.

Jackson, along with fellow Liberal Judge Sonia Sotomayor, said the court should have ruled for Dave Chinn, who was convicted of a 1989 murder in Dayton, Ohio, during a robbery. Instead, the court dismissed Chinn’s appeal.

Chinn’s attorneys argued that prosecutors withheld evidence that a key witness, Marvin Washington, was severely mentally retarded, with an IQ of 48. Washington had identified Chinn as the shooter.

Jackson wrote in an opinion that disagreed with the court’s decision to dismiss Chinn’s claim that there was “no dispute” that the state had withheld evidence that would have undermined Washington’s credibility as a witness. According to a 1963 Supreme Court ruling called Brady v. Maryland, such conduct may constitute a violation of due process.

Jackson disagreed with a February ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in favor of the state, which she said had failed to properly analyze whether the evidence about Washington influenced the outcome at trial.

“Since Chinn’s life is at stake, and given the high likelihood that the suppressed documents would have changed the court during the trial…I would succinctly reverse it,” Jackson wrote.

Jackson, the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, was appointed by President Joe Biden to replace fellow Liberal Judge Stephen Breyer, who retired this summer.

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