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February 26, 2009

After winning SCOTUS battle, Danforth loses state retroactivity war

As habeas fans know, last year the Supreme Court held in Danforth that state courts were not obligated to apply the federal habeas standards of Teague when deciding whether to give constitutional rulings retroactive effects.  This important victory for defendant Stephan Danforth has proved to by temporary, because today in this split ruling, the Minnesota Supreme Court chose to adopt the Teague rule for state retroactivity purposes even though it now knows it does not have to. 

Here are snippets from the majority opinion in this round of Danforth:

Some states have found Teague too narrow or strict, or out of place where a state court is reviewing its own convictions. See, e.g., Colwell v. State, 59 P. 3d 463, 471 (Nev. 2002) (adopting modified version of Teague).  Since the Danforth ruling freed states to fashion their own retroactivity standards, only one state appears to have considered the question, and that state opted to retain TeagueSee Ex Parte Lave, No. AP-75,912, 2008 WL 2512820, at *2 (Tex. Crim. App. June 25, 2008) (concluding that “[a]lthough not required by the United States Supreme Court to do so, we adhere to our retroactivity analysis . . . that Crawford does not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review in Texas state courts.”).

Danforth argues that we should abandon Teague....  We elect to retain Teague. While we acknowledge that one of the policy concerns underlying Teague – that federal habeas courts not excessively interfere with state courts – is absent when a state court is reviewing state convictions, we continue to share the other policy concern behind Teague, which is the finality of convictions.  Finality of state convictions is a matter that States are “free to evaluate, and weigh the importance of.”  Danforth, 552 U.S. at __, 128 S. Ct. at 1041.

The dissent makes a pitch for a modified approach: "I would not adopt Teague in total, rather I would, as the Nevada Supreme Court has done, adopt the basic approach set forth in Teague but with some significant qualifications.  See Colwell v. State, 59 P.3d 463 (Nev. 2002)."

February 26, 2009 at 05:17 PM | Permalink

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Comments

"This important victory for defendant Stephan Danforth..."

Whether and a victory?

Posted by: Andrew | Feb 27, 2009 12:28:48 AM

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