U.S.S.C. CASE LAW UPDATE –
Selected Cases From The United States Supreme Court (October 2005-July 2006)
Dye v. Hofbauer (10/11/2005, 04-8384) ____ US ____ [163 LEd2d 1; 126 SCt 5]: Denial of plaintiff’s habeas corpus petition is reversed where the Michigan Court of Appeals incorrectly ruled that his prosecutorial misconduct claim was presented improperly.
Schriro v. Smith (10/17/2005, 04-1475) ____ US ____ [163 LEd2d 6; 126 SCt 7]: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals exceeded its limited authority on habeas review when it commanded the Arizona courts to conduct a jury trial to resolve defendant-death row inmate’s mental retardation claim.
Eberhart v. US (10/31/2005, 04-9949) ____ US ____ [163 LEd2d 14; 126 SCt 403]: Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33, which allows a district court to vacate any judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so requires, is an inflexible claim-processing rule, and the Seventh Circuit incorrectly construed its time limitations as jurisdictional.
Bradshaw v. Richey (11/28/2005, 05-101) ____ US ____ [163 LEd2d 407; 126 SCt 602]: Grant of habeas corpus relief for defendant on his arson conviction is vacated where the circuit court erred in: 1) holding that transferred intent was not a permissible theory for aggravated felony murder under Ohio law, resulting in insufficient evidence of direct intent for a conviction; and 2) finding ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington (1984) 466 US 668.
Brown v. Sanders (1/11/2006, 04–980) ____ US ____ [163 LEd2d 723; 126 SCt 884]: With regard to the imposition of a death sentence, an invalidated sentencing factor, whether an eligibility factor or not, will render a sentence unconstitutional by reason of its adding an improper element to the aggravation scale in the weighing process, unless one of the other sentencing factors enables the sentencer to give aggravating weight to the same facts and circumstances.
Gonzales v. Oregon (1/17/2006, 04–623) ____ US ____ [163 LEd2d 748; 126 SCt 904]: The Controlled Substances Act does not allow the Attorney General to prohibit doctors from prescribing regulated drugs for use in physician-assisted suicide under state law permitting the procedure.
Rice v. Collins (1/18/2006, 04–52) ____ US ____ [163 LEd2d 824; 126 SCt 969]: Grant of habeas corpus relief from a state conviction for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute pursuant to defendant’s Batson challenge is reversed where the circuit court improperly substituted its evaluation of the record for that of the state trial court.
Oregon v. Guzek (2/22/2006, 04–928) ____ US ____ [163 LEd2d 1112; 126 SCt 1226]: The Constitution does not prohibit a state from limiting the innocence-related evidence a capital defendant can introduce at a sentencing proceeding to the evidence introduced at the original trial.
Scheidler v. Nat’l Org. for Women, Inc. (2/28/2006, 04–1244) ____ US ____ [164 LEd2d 10; 126 S Ct 1264]: Physical violence unrelated to robbery or extortion falls outside the scope of the Hobbs Act.
Salinas v. United States (4/24/2006, 05-8400) ____ US ____ [164 LEd2d 364; 126 SCt 1675]: Judgment vacated and remanded where the court erred in treating a prior conviction for simple possession as a “controlled substance offense” for sentencing guideline purposes, since that term requires elements other than simple possession.
Holmes v. South Carolina (5/1/2006, 04–1327) ____ US ____ [164 LEd2d 503;126 SCt 1727]: A criminal defendant’s federal constitutional rights are violated by an evidence rule under which the defendant may not introduce evidence of third-party guilt if the prosecution has introduced forensic evidence that, if believed, strongly supports a guilty verdict.
Zedner v. U.S. (6/5/2006, 05–5992) ____ US ____ [164 LEd2d 749; 126 SCt 1976]: A defendant may not prospectively waive the application of the Speedy Trial Act. For purposes of the Speedy Trial Act, when a district court makes no findings on the record to support an “ends of justice” continuance under 18 USC. 3161(h)(8), harmless-error review is not appropriate.
House v. Bell (6/12/2006, 04–8990) ____ US ____ 165 LEd2d 1;126 SCt 2064]: Denial of habeas relief for petitioner in a death penalty murder is reversed case where defendant made the stringent showing required by the actual-innocence exception to procedural default, and defendant’s federal habeas action could proceed.
Dixon v. U.S. (6/22/2006,05–7053) ____ US ____ [165 LEd2d 299; 126 SCt 2437]: Conviction for receiving a firearm while under indictment and making false statements in connection with the acquisition of firearm affirmed over a claim that trial judge’s instructions to the jury erroneously required defendant to prove duress by a preponderance of the evidence instead of requiring the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she did not act under duress.
Davis v. Washington (6/19/2006, 05–5224, 05–5705) ____ US ____ [165 LEd2d 224; 126 SCt 2266]: In the context of determining whether statements are testimonial for hearsay purposes, statements are non-testimonial when made in the course of police interrogation under circumstances objectively indicating that the primary purpose of the interrogation is to enable police assistance to meet an ongoing emergency; they are testimonial when the circumstances objectively indicate that there is no such ongoing emergency, and that the primary purpose of the interrogation is to establish or prove past events potentially relevant to later criminal prosecution.
U.S. v. Gonzalez-Lopez (6/26/2006, 05–352) ____ US ____ [165 LEd2d 409; 126 SCt 2557]: A trial court’s erroneous deprivation of a criminal defendant’s choice of counsel is not subject to harmless-error analysis and entitles the defendant to reversal of his conviction.
Kansas v. Marsh (6/26/2006, 04–1170) ____ US ____ [165 LEd2d 429; 126 SCt 2516]: Kansas’ capital sentencing statute, which requires the imposition of the death penalty when the sentencing jury determines that aggravating evidence and mitigating evidence are in equipoise, is constitutional.
Washington v. Recuenco (6/26/2006, 05–83) ____ US ____ [165 LEd2d 466; 126 SCt 2546]: Failure to submit a sentencing factor to the jury is not structural error.
Clark v. Arizona (6/29/2006, 05-5966) ____ US ____ [165 LEd2d 842; 126 SCt 2709]: Due process does not prohibit state’s use of insanity test stated solely in terms of capacity to tell right from wrong; or in restricting consideration of defense evidence of mental illness and incapacity to claim of insanity, eliminating its significance on issue of mental element (mens rea) of crime. [Note: this decision does not limit juror consideration of diminished actuality as to any mental element of the crime.]
Grants of Certiorari:
Youngblood v. W. Virginia (6/19/2006, 05–6997) ____ US ____ [165 LEd2d 269 ; 126 SCt 2188]: (State v. Youngblood (2005) 217 W. Va. 535, 618 S.E.2d 544) certiorari is granted and a judgment of a state supreme court affirming a denial of a new trial for defendant is vacated where defendant had clearly presented a federal constitutional Brady claim to the state supreme court. Inmate contended that a note shown to, but ignored by, a law enforcement officer squarely contradicted the prosecution’s account of the incidents and directly supported the inmate’s consensual-sex defense; withholding the exculpatory evidence violated the inmate’s constitutional rights.