SCOTUS hears arguments in Kalamazoo murder conviction

Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A history-marking case was heard before the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday involving a murder case out of Kalamazoo.

The hearing comes 13 years after Ervine Davenport was convicted of murdering Annette White. A Kalamazoo County jury sentenced him to life without parole.

Last year, a federal appeals court ruled to set aside his conviction because he was presented in court wearing shackles and that it was a violation of his civil rights.

“The state cannot present a defendant in shackles in front of a jury,” Brendan Beery, a constitutional law professor at Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School said. “The Supreme Court has held that it creates a presumption of guilt almost, it gives the jury the visual cue that the defendant is a violent person.”

While the state courts acknowledged the error, they ruled it had no effect on the outcome of the trial.

The high court heard arguments Tuesday from Davenport’s attorney Tasha Bahal and Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud on behalf of the state.

It’s up the U.S. Supreme Court to decide if the appeals court that set aside the conviction was acting within its authority to decide that a state court was wrong about a constitutional violation.

In addition to arguing the shackles were harmless due to the overwhelming evidence in the case, Hammoud requested more clarity regarding what statutes and standards apply to federal judges in making these sorts of rulings.

“I suspect that every federal judge in the nation would benefit from articulating this standard and clarifying this language,” Hammoud said during the hearing. “And that is why we believe this is important that this court articulate because this question has not been asked and has not been before this court before.”

Hammoud made history Tuesday as the first Arab American Muslim woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“On a personal level, this is the highlight of my career, and I am deeply honored that the State and the Attorney General have entrusted me with this argument before the highest Court in the land,” Hammoud said in a statement.

Beery expects the high court to rule in favor of the state but said it could be several months before the deliver an opinion.

Should Davenport win, he would be granted a new trial.

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