In her very first opinion since becoming a Supreme Court justice over the summer, Ketanji Brown Jackson dissented from a previous ruling and wrote in favor of an Ohio death row inmate. She was joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor in her decision.
Jackson stated that the court should have sided with Davel Chinn, who was convicted of murder in Dayton during a robbery in 1989. However, the court wound up rejecting Chinn’s appeal. After the rejection, his lawyers said in a statement that “Ohio must not exacerbate the mistakes of the past by pursuing Mr. Chinn’s execution.”
His legal team claimed that prosecutors withheld evidence. Marvin Washington, a key witness in the case who identified Chinn as the shooter, was mentally disabled and held an IQ of 48.
In her dissenting opinion, Jackson stated that the state had in fact suppressed evidence that would have undermined Washington’s credibility as a witness. A 1963 Supreme Court ruling called Brady v. Maryland means this behavior can constitute a due process violation.
Jackson explained in the document that there was “no dispute” that the state had “suppressed exculpatory evidence.” She also wondered how the lower courts had applied a“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,” Jackson wrote.
In July, she casted her first vote as a justice. Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, was officially sworn in on June 30.