SCOTUS Gives 9th Circ. the Reversal It Wanted
WASHINGTON (CN) - After the 9th Circuit denied a convicted murderer habeas relief to comply with a Supreme Court reversal, the justices quietly reversed again Tuesday.
Tara Sheneva Williams evaded capture for years but was eventually convicted for murder related to her role as getaway driver in a deadly liquor store robbery.
A three-judge panel of 9th Circuit granted her habeas petition in 2011, finding that the trial judge had improperly replaced a juror that he thought was biased. They concluded that the judge's actions could have resulted from the juror's views on the merits of the case.
The U.S. Supreme Court reversed in February 2013, however, after finding that the panel failed to give proper deference to the state court under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) of 1996, which "sharply limits the circumstances in which a federal court may issue a writ of habeas corpus to a state prisoner whose claim was 'adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings.'"
"This issue arises when a defendant convicted in state court attempts to raise a federal claim, either on direct appeal or in a collateral state proceeding, and a state court rules against the defendant and issues an opinion that addresses some issues but does not expressly address the federal claim in question," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the mostly unanimous court.
The 9th Circuit begrudgingly affirmed denial of the habeas petition nearly a year ago to the day.
Both Chief Judge Alex Kozinski and Judge Stephen Reinhardt filed concurrences that questioned whether Williams' claims about the dismissed juror have ever been thoroughly considered.
"It's not clear to me that the trial judge's actions here complied with clearly established Supreme Court precedent, but I'm not sure, as we've never ruled on the issue," Kozinski wrote. "It's thus surprising that the Supreme Court should have done so, particularly when it declined to have the question briefed, and its opinion contains no analysis supporting its conclusion."
"I hope I'm wrong, but can see no other way to read the court's actions," Kozinski added. "Deference to the judicial hierarchy leaves room for no other course of action on our part. But I take comfort in knowing that, if we are wrong, we can be summarily reversed."
The 9th Circuit had apparently been correct in its suspicions of a misunderstanding because the Supreme Court issued that summary reversal Tuesday.
"The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is vacated, and the case is remanded for consideration of petitioner's Sixth Amendment claim under the standard set forth in 28 U. S. C. §2254(d)," the unsigned order states.