Virginia Amendment 1 (2002)

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Virginia Amendment 1, also known as the Judicial Power and Jurisdiction Act, was on the 2002 election ballot in Virginia. It passed, with 72.7% of voters in favor.

Text of measure

The language that appeared on the ballot:

This amendment concerns cases in which a person is convicted of a felony but is later able to prove his "actual innocence" because of new scientific or DNA evidence that is discovered after his conviction. The new evidence shows that the person did not commit the felony and was wrongly convicted.

The amendment provides that the Supreme Court may "consider claims of actual innocence presented by convicted felons in such cases and in such manner as may be provided by the General Assembly" as part of the Court's original jurisdiction. Article VI, Section 1, establishes the Supreme Court and provides that it may hear some matters as part of its "original" jurisdiction and other matters as part of its "appellate" jurisdiction.

Most cases reach the Supreme Court by an appeal from a lower court and fall within its "appellate" jurisdiction. Section 1 lists the matters that the Supreme Court hears as part of its "original" jurisdiction. These are special situations: for example, habeas corpus petitions and matters involving the discipline of a judge.

A vote to approve this proposed amendment will make it clear that the Supreme Court may consider a claim of actual innocence without requiring the person to file the claim first in a lower court. If the voters approve the proposed amendment, it will take effect November 15, 2002.

The amendment provides that the General Assembly will provide by law for the details of what claims may be filed and the procedures that must be followed to file these claims. The General Assembly has enacted a law to implement this proposed amendment. That law will also take effect November 15, 2002. [Code of Virginia, Title 19.2, Ch. 19.2, §§ 19.2-327.2 through 19.2-327.6. Issuance of Writ of Actual Innocence.]

In brief, that law spells out in detail when and how a convicted felon may petition the Supreme Court to issue a writ of actual innocence. The petition must claim that the petitioner is actually innocent of the crime for which he was convicted, set out an exact description of the human biological or DNA evidence and testing supporting his innocence, and explain that the evidence was not available when the petitioner was convicted. The Supreme Court may dismiss or grant the petition and may overturn or modify the conviction after it considers the petition and the Commonwealth's response, the previous records of the case, and other evidence it may require.

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