The Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear death row inmates’ claims that Alabama unconstitutionally denies them legal representation, reports the Birmingham News. We’re disappointed, but this is not over. The court didn’t rule against us. It just decided not to review this issue at this time,” said Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama. Six inmates argued in a 2001 civil rights suit that Alabama is the only state that doesn’t provide the condemned with lawyers for their later appeals, violating the 6th and 8th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Three former Alabama Supreme Court justices, a former appellate judge and three former presidents of the Alabama State Bar filed a brief supporting the inmates’ case and urging the U.S. Supreme Court to consider it. Alabama argued that the state has no legal obligation to provide inmates with lawyers after their initial appeal, and most of them have attorneys anyway. Civil rights advocates struggle to find attorneys willing to take the condemned inmates’ cases, and deadlines for filing appeals often pass while inmates are not represented, said Birmingham lawyer Lisa Borden. That stacks the odds against the inmates even if they eventually find a lawyer.