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41 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 299 (2006)
The Great Unobtainable Writ: Indigent Pro Se Litigation after the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996

handle is hein.journals/hcrcl41 and id is 305 raw text is: The Great Unobtainable Writ:
Indigent Pro Se Litigation After the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
of 1996
Thomas C. O'Bryant*
I. INRODUCTION
Imagine a defendant pleading guilty to an offense and being sentenced
to life in prison after his court-appointed attorney informed him that, un-
der the plea, he will be eligible for release after ten years. His attorney
reiterates this understanding in open court at sentencing, and neither the
prosecutor nor the judge refutes him. Now imagine that, when the defen-
dant arrives at prison, he learns that-contrary to his counsel's informa-
tion-he will never be released from prison.'
Under such circumstances a person should be able to receive some
sort of relief from the court system. What happens, however, if the state
court system refuses to rectify the matter? Traditionally, a defendant could
turn to the federal courts, but for nearly a decade access to the federal courts
has not always been available due to a devastating combination: pro se
litigation2 and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(AEDPA).3
I am an inmate in the Florida Department of Corrections, Inmate ID #0-124004. From
1997 through 2000, I educated myself in the law. In 2001, I completed a pairalegal corre-
spondence course through the University of Florida.
In this Article, I use some footnotes to define terms that are unnecessary for the legal
community. These footnotes are included for the benefit of fellow inmates and pro se liti-
gants.
I would like to thank Rachel Wainer Apter, Audrey Bianco, Eun Young Choi, Daniel
Farbman, John Lavinsky, Scott Levy, Lauren Robinson, Jocelyn Simonson, and Prashant
Yerramalli at the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review for their editorial assis-
tance and their help in locating some of the authorities used in this Article. I would also
like to acknowledge the many CR-CL staff members who provided substantive research assis-
tance for this Article. Due to my incarceration, I have a limited amount of research material
available to me. Without their assistance, this Article would not have been possible.
I This hypothetical situation is based on the case of Kenneth Brian Victoria. See State
v. Victoria, Case No. 1986-6167 (Fla. Cir. Ct. Apr. 3, 1987).
2 A pro se litigant is [o]ne who represents oneself in a court proceeding without the
assistance of a lawyer. BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY 1258 (8th ed. 2004).
3 Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (1996) (amending 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244, 2253-2255
(1994) and adding 28 U.S.C. §§ 2261-2266 (2000)). Mr. Victoria, for example, has sought
judicial relief pro se, but any federal review sought would be untimely under AEDPA. He has
been in prison for twenty years, is currently housed at DeSoto Correctional Institution and
is serving a life sentence. See Fla. Dep't of Corr., Inmate Population Information Detail,

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