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Habeas Corpus Scholars Support Tommy’s and Kiko’s Habeas Petitions

By Lauren Choplin

Today Justin Marceau (Professor Of Constitutional and Criminal Law at University Of Denver Sturm College Of Law) and Samuel R. Wiseman (Professor of Constitutional and Criminal Law at Florida State University College Of Law) requested leave to file two amici curiae (“friends of the court”) briefs in support of the Nonhuman Rights Project. One brief addresses the NhRP’s appeal with the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department on behalf of Tommy the chimpanzee, and the second brief addresses the NhRP’s appeal with same department on behalf of Kiko the chimpanzee.

In the briefs, Marceau and Wiseman exhort the Court to allow Tommy and Kiko to use habeas corpus to challenge the legality of their detention just as other “unjustly incarcerated beings” have done throughout history. Of particular relevance, they note, is use of the writ by innocent human beings imprisoned for crimes they did not commit: “Nonhuman animals are unquestionably innocent. Their confinement, at least in some cases, is uniquely depraved; and their cognitive functioning and their cognitive harm as a consequence of this imprisonment, is similar to that of human beings.”

As such—and in part because scientific evidence strongly suggests that chimpanzees can and do bear duties and responsibilities (contrary to what the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department asserted in its Dec. 2015 ruling in Tommy’s case)—Tommy and Kiko should be recognized as legal persons and granted writs of habeas corpus, Marceau and Wiseman argue.

“Unless this Court allows [Tommy and Kiko] to use the Writ of Habeas Corpus to require [their] captors to justify [their] imprisonment,” they write, “[they] will be unjustly confined for the remainder of [their lives].”

Action on the briefs is expected in the next four to six weeks.

Marceau previously submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of the NhRP’s motion for leave to appeal in Tommy’s case in Dec. of 2015.

The First Judicial Department has scheduled a hearing in Tommy’s case for the January 2017 term and a hearing in Kiko’s case for the February 2017 term (exact dates TBD).

To learn more about Tommy’s case, visit his Court Cases page. To learn more about Kiko’s case, visit his Court Cases page.

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