Katz in the Bag?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016 @ 6:55PM

As we have not been afraid to express on this site in prior updates, we have long expected that the Commonwealth of Virginia would likely just rubber-stamp Cameron’s conviction and deny his habeas without much consideration of its merit. To this effect, we have talked before about how federal review would probably be his only meaningful opportunity for relief. But now, a series of pleadings filed recently in the Virginia Beach Circuit Court are giving us reason to believe that maybe, just maybe, Cameron’s case might be so extraordinary that not even the state could ignore it.

On August 8, 2016, the Attorney General filed his response to Cameron’s petition, which was filed May 2, 2016. Then, on August 16, 2016, Cameron filed his reply to the Attorney General’s Response. And on August 23, 2016, Cameron filed a brief supplement to his reply. All of these documents are available for viewing at the bottom of this update.

The reason for our hope is simple. While the Attorney General’s response was remarkably weak, Cameron’s reply was merciless and meticulous in its total dismemberment of that response.

To be fair, we confess our bias; we believe firmly that Cameron’s constitutional rights were violated during his trial process, and we believe that he deserves a new trial. But when we characterize the AG’s response as weak and Cameron’s reply as strong, we do so by an objective measurement. On each of Cameron’s claims for relief, the AG’s response was marred by errors of law and fact. These errors are potentially fatal to the AG’s defense on all counts. And beyond these crucial mistakes, it is also well worth noting the following about the AG’s response: (1) He did not dispute that Cameron’s Miranda rights were violated; (2) he did not dispute that Cameron’s statements to law enforcement were the involuntary product of coercive police activity while he was in an amnesiac state; (3) he did not dispute that the prosecution suppressed nine different pieces of exculpatory evidence; (4) he did not dispute that the prosecution tested the driver’s side airbag and has never disclosed the results; (5) he did not dispute that the newly-discovered seatbelt evidence would have changed the jury’s verdict; (6) he did not dispute that Jacob Palmer confessed to the crime in 2011; and (7) he did not dispute Cameron’s claim of actual innocence.

In his reply, Cameron shredded the Attorney General’s defensive positions. For every error committed by the AG, Cameron made sure to expose it in piercing and precise fashion. Any fair-minded reading of his reply leads one to the inevitable conclusion that the Attorney General’s defense is indeed nothing but an empty castle.

Cameron had the following to say about the recent filings. “I am confident that this defense will not stand. I cannot say when victory will be ours, but after having thoroughly examined the AG’s various positions, I am sure that they cannot withstand the test of law and reason. All we can hope for now is an independent and truly considerate decision on the matter.” He continued: “In trying to remain as objective as possible, I fail to see how a court of review could deny the petition. The law, thoroughly understood and appropriately applied, compels but one conclusion. And if I were to speak from my own feelings, well, I’d probably tell you that a denial on these facts would be wild. From my perspective, I certainly feel like the cat’s in the bag. The time for relief is now. We’ve endured enough injustice.”

The case is now in the hands of Judge James Lewis, who has given very little indication thus far of his tendency. He could do one of three things. He could order discovery or another form of further factual development, e.g., a live evidentiary hearing, before deciding the case. Or he could elect to grant or deny the petition outright on the present state of the evidence. We are basically in wait-and-see mode now.

We would say that we remain cautiously optimistic at this level. The Attorney General has prepared a proposed final order denying the petition and asked the judge to sign it. Believe it or not, this proposed order is actually the AG’s response, word for word, only it has been re-styled as an order instead of an adversarial response. How this does not offend the sense of the judiciary’s independence is beyond us, but it still would not surprise us if the judge were to sign it even with Cameron’s arguments sitting right next to it on his desk demonstrating the many errors in it. We have simply seen it happen too many times.

Yet, we reserve hope. Hope that this judge will separate himself from the deep political intrigue surrounding this case and decide the petition with an open mind after a comprehensive review of all the pleadings and evidence. Hope that there’s still such a thing as a meaningful opportunity for collateral review in the state courts. Hope that justice can be done now, not months and months from now. Hope that the government will not continue to just be able to dictate reality by fiat. Hope. Hope.

We will have another update for you this weekend. While we are not at liberty to reveal any substantive information concerning this update for the time being, we can say that it’s gonna be big! Things are about to get hot for certain people. So stay tuned.

Exhibits:

(1) Original Habeas Petition;

(2) Director’s Response;

(3) Cameron’s Reply;

(4) Cameron’s Supplement

 

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