The Constitution Project files Amicus brief in Harbison v. Bell

The Constitution Project’s amicus brief in Harbison v. Bell, submitted on September 15, 2008, highlights the critical role that clemency plays in the American system of justice. Throughout its jurisprudence, the Supreme Court has widely recognized and relied upon clemency as a backstop to any fallibility in the criminal justice system, reinforcing the view that Congress’s provision of federally-funded counsel for capital defendants includes the clemency process. The clemency process performs unique functions in the criminal justice system not duplicated elsewhere. The clemency process serves as an error correction means of last resort at the end of the habeas process, which may reveal and allow state officials to consider evidence no court has ever been able to examine. The clemency process also permits the state executive to weigh the state’s interest in mitigating a sentence, in an exercise of mercy that no court can undertake.

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