While then-Judge Charlie Baird ruled that Jimenez should be granted a new trial, the Court of Criminal Appeals subsequently rejected his findings, made from a multi-day evidentiary hearing with live witnesses in his court, and ruled instead not only that Jimenez was not entitled to as many experts as the state, but also that evidence of Jimenez's innocence was not "clear and convincing," the standard by which the CCA ruled that she should be judged.
Whether that is the proper standard for considering whether the evidence points to Jimenez's innocence was among the questions before the U.S. Supreme Court in a certiorari petition filed on Jimenez's behalf this summer. Both the Mexican government, a group of distinguished legal scholars from across the country (including UT's own Jordan Steiker), and Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins were among those filing briefs with the Supremes urging them to take the case. To the Dallas D.A., the case was a perfect vehicle to determine what standard should apply in determining a defendant's free-standing claim of actual innocence – that is, a where a claim of innocence stands alone, without being tied to a Constitutional claim or other procedural defect – and to decide whether a preponderance of evidence, clear and convincing evidence, or some other standard altogether should be used to evaluate such claims.
The Travis County D.A.'s office opposed the move, arguing that Jimenez's case was not (at least at present) the vehicle by which any consideration of free-standing actual innocence claims should be decided.
The Supremes rejected the case yesterday, without written order, kicking the matter back to the federal district court for further proceedings that will address the issues raised before the high court.Their refusal is disappointing, but hardly surprising. In Herrera v. Collins and other cases, SCOTUS has refused to recognize a “claim [of actual innocence] as a ground for federal habeas relief absent an independent constitutional violation occurring in the underlying state criminal proceeding.” In Herrera, SCOTUS declared that, "the traditional remedy for claims of innocence ... has been executive clemency," which in modern times has become a sad joke for all but the most trivial, long-ago cases.
MORE: From the Austin Statesman. See also Jordan Smith's earlier coverage of the case.