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What We Can Learn About Appeals From Mr. Tillman's Case: More Lessons From Another DNA Exoneration
University of Cincinnati Law Review (2009)
  • Giovanna Shay

In 2006, Mr. James Calvin Tillman became the first person in Connecticut to be exonerated through the use of post-conviction DNA testing. He joined a group of DNA exonerees that currently numbers more than 200 nationwide. In many ways, Mr. Tillman’s case is a paradigmatic DNA exoneration—involving a cross-racial mistaken eyewitness identification, issues of race, and faulty forensic testimony. This article uses the published opinions affirming Mr. Tillman’s conviction—particularly his direct appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court and his appeal from the state habeas proceeding—to reflect on the meaning of appellate and postconviction proceedings. Does Mr. Tillman’s exoneration reveal any problems with appellate litigation, or is it the product of mistakes in investigation and adjudication that are beyond the purview of appellate courts? There is no question that the root causes of Mr. Tillman’s wrongful conviction must be addressed at the investigatory and trial level. However, in this article, I argue that certain features of appellate review that appear in the Tillman opinions—heavy reliance on tools that I describe loosely as “harm-type” and “preservation-type” analyses, as well as deferential ineffective assistance of counsel standards—can contribute over the long-term to local criminal justice cultures that fail to guard adequately against wrongful convictions.

  • criminal law,
  • innocence,
  • exonerations,
  • race,
  • appeals,
  • postconviction
Publication Date
May, 2009
Publisher Statement
Forthcoming in 77 (4) Univ. of Cincinnati Law Review (2009). Copyright held by the Univ. of Cincinnati Law Review.
Citation Information
Giovanna Shay. "What We Can Learn About Appeals From Mr. Tillman's Case: More Lessons From Another DNA Exoneration" University of Cincinnati Law Review Vol. 77 Iss. 4 (2009)
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