Ketanji Brown Jackson sides with death row inmate in first Supreme Court opinion

Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson delivered her first written Supreme Court opinion on Monday. File Photo by Eric Lee/UPI
Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson delivered her first written Supreme Court opinion on Monday. File Photo by Eric Lee/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson sided with a death row inmate in Ohio in her first written opinion since joining the Supreme Court this summer.

Jackson, who was joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, wrote a dissenting opinion objecting to the Supreme Court's decision to reject an appeal from Davel Chinn, the death row inmate, who was convicted of a 1989 murder in Dayton.


Chinn's lawyers had petitioned the court to take his case, arguing that the prosecution withheld evidence that a key witness who identified him as the shooter was mentally disabled.

Jackson wrote that there is "no dispute" that prosecutors suppressed exculpatory evidence indicating that Marvin Washington had an intellectual disability "that may have affected Washington's ability to remember, perceive fact from fiction, and testify accurately."

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She said that the Ohio Supreme Court and Ohio Court of Appeals were confronted with evidence that prosecutors had suppressed the evidence "that would have substantially impeached this key witness" but concluded that the evidence was not material enough to have affected the trial.

Jackson added that the 1984 case Brady and Strickland vs. Washington had established a "relatively low burden" for materiality and that the Sixth Circuit court "did not appropriately apply the materiality standard."


"Because Chinn's life is on the line, and given the substantial likelihood that the suppressed records would have changed the outcome at trial based on the Ohio courts' own representations, I would summarily reverse to ensure that the Sixth Circuit conducts its materiality analysis under the proper standard," she wrote.

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Jackson is the first Black woman to ever serve on the Supreme Court and was appointed by President Joe Biden to replace liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, who retired from the high court.

Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court 2022

Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court sit for a formal group photo at the court in Washington on October 7, 2022. Seated, from left to right, are Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito Jr. and Elena Kagan. Standing, from left to right, are: Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Ketanji Brown Jackson. Photo by Eric Lee/UPI | License Photo

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