Thursday, March 5, 2020

Supreme Court Clinic Files Brief on Behalf of Innocent James Dailey

supreme court

On March 2, 2020, the Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School and Mayer Brown LLP filed a petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of James Dailey, a veteran who has spent more than 30 years on Florida’s death row for a murder he did not commit.

Dailey’s petition asks for the Court’s review on the grounds that the state of Florida withheld evidence pointing to his innocence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, which holds that the State must disclose evidence favorable to the defense. The suppressed evidence includes a statement by former Assistant State Attorney James Slater, who worked on the investigation of the murder for which Dailey was prosecuted, indicating that Dailey’s codefendant, Jack Pearcy, admitted to murdering victim Shelly Boggio. Pearcy is serving a life sentence with parole eligibility for the crime.

READ: Petition for certiorari on behalf of James Dailey

“The record in this case now reveals that the State’s repeated disregard of its constitutional disclosure obligations fatally tainted the verdict,” the petition states. “[I]t is particularly troubling when the uncorrected errors produced a sentence of death. Especially because ‘the newly revealed evidence suffices to undermine confidence in [Dailey’s] conviction,’ review by this Court is warranted.”

Pearcy confessed to law enforcement that he stabbed the victim after she made fun of him, but the State failed to disclose this evidence to Dailey’s trial attorneys or his prior post-conviction counsel, according to the petition. In state post-conviction proceedings, Dailey sought relief based on Pearcy’s confession, which Slater described in a sworn affidavit. The trial court and the Florida Supreme Court found that Dailey’s attorneys should have found this evidence earlier, even though Brady v. Maryland compelled the State to disclose it and the State did not.

In addition, the petition states that the State violated its duty to disclose exculpatory information when it suppressed testimony from another prisoner indicating that the lead police detective offered favorable treatment if other prisoners would incriminate Dailey. The New York Times Magazine and ProPublica published an investigative piece on Paul Skalnik’s unreliable snitch testimony in Dailey’s case in December 2019. The investigation showed that the prosecution’s star witness against Dailey “may be one of the most prolific jailhouse informants in American history.”

“At this stage, only the Supreme Court can fully address the urgent questions of law raised by the Florida court’s decision below,” said Josh Blecher-Cohen ’20. “Working on this petition has given the Clinic a chance to join a broad community of lawyers and advocates fighting to secure justice for James Dailey.”

Pearcy has confessed to committing the crime alone at least five times. In a separate petition filed on January 10, 2020, Dailey asked the Court for certiorari because the Florida courts excluded evidence of another one of Mr. Pearcy’s confessions on hearsay grounds. A group of amici — ­including eight former and current prosecutors and attorneys general, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops — have urged the Court to accept Dailey’s innocence case.

The Yale Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic provides clients with the highest quality pro bono representation before the Supreme Court of the United States. The Clinic maintains an active docket of cases at both the certiorari and merits stages.