William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal


Taran Wessells


This Note will address the intersection of wrongful convictions, the federal death penalty, and habeas corpus to conclude that the federal death penalty is an unconstitutional violation of the Suspension Clause of the United States Constitution. Part I of this Note will establish that Congress may not suspend the writ of habeas corpus outside of wartime. Then, Part II will show that wrongfully convicted prisoners therefore have a constitutional right to a habeas petition if they discover new, exonerating evidence. Part III will argue that because executed prisoners cannot file a habeas petition for release, executing wrongfully convicted prisoners is an unconstitutional suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. Finally, Part IV will extend Part III to show that the government has no way to know, prior to execution, who will be wrongfully or rightfully executed and therefore the federal government may not execute any prisoners without certainly suspending habeas corpus for some prisoners. Finally, Part V will explore counterarguments to this Note’s argument.