The New Southern Gothic

Habeas Corpus, AEDPA, and the Nightmare of Proving Actual Innocence


  • Aimee Briel Clesi University of Florida



southern gothic, actual innocence, habeas corpus


Investigating the demise of the writ of habeas corpus under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), this paper questions the callused lineage of cases upholding Title I of AEDPA and contends that states must take up a statutory method like Texas’s to review defendant’s claims of actual innocence to ensure that the legal system designed under the U.S. Constitution remains fair and just not only in theory, but in practice. Using imagery from the southern gothic genre, this paper also reveals that “the death belt” most adequately portrays the reality of the death penalty, as many appeals based on actual innocence originate from this area.