Courtney Bisbee was a single mother and school nurse, living and working in Scottsdale, AZ in 2004 when, through a combination of false accusations, police misconduct, prosecutorial railroading, very expensive but incompetent defense, and a judge who “owed one” to the prosecution, she was convicted in a bench trial, and sent to prison for “improperly touching” a teenager. An incident that never happened. You can read our first post about Courtney’s case here. Courtney has been in prison ever since.
I have personally been following this case for almost three years. This past December, we jubilantly posted that Courtney Bisbee had been granted an evidentiary hearing. Please see that report here. AT LAST, we saw a chance for the real truth to come out. However, as you would expect, the prosecution has been fighting against this with great vigor, and it appears, that for the time being, they have succeeded. Those readers who have been following this story should know that Courtney’s evidentiary hearing has been vacated.
No hearing was held, but on February 3, 2016, Senior Federal District Court Judge Roslyn O. Silver granted the prosecution’s objections, and vacated Courtney’s evidentiary hearing. You can see US Senior District Judge Roslyn O. Silver’s ruling here.
Let me take some editorial license here and state that this ruling is NOT about justice and truth and doing what’s right. This is about justice system officials desperately trying to prevent disclosure of their misdeeds. And it’s also about a justice system that has elevated “procedure” to the point of being an end unto itself, regardless of actual guilt or innocence.
The legal point at issue here was the subject of a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Cullen vs. Pinholster, commonly referred to as just ‘Pinholster.’ Prior to this decision, federal habeas courts had the ability to conduct an evidentiary hearing and do fact finding to get to the truth. The decision in Pinholster limits the habeas court to considering only evidence that was presented at trial. This has been a part of the systematic gutting by the Supreme Court over the past decade of Constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus protection. (If interested, you can download an interesting paper on the subject here.)
It must be noted that in her ruling, Judge Silver did not address the merits of the case. Consequently, there is still hope that Courtney may yet have her evidentiary hearing, and that the truth will come out. It’s just going to take longer.
Courtney has a petition on Change.org. Here is a link to that page: https://www.change.org/p/help-free-an-innocent-mom-courtney-bisbee-maricopa-county-az/u/15702845