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January 11, 2010

SCOTUS summary reversal of Ninth Circuit sufficiency ruling

The Supreme Court this morning kicked off its new year with a rather lengthy per curiam summary reversal in McDaniel v. Brown, No. 08-559 (Jan. 11, 2010) (available here). The ruling starts this way:

In Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U. S. 307 (1979), we heldthat a state prisoner is entitled to habeas corpus relief if afederal judge finds that “upon the record evidence adducedat the trial no rational trier of fact could have found proofof guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Id., at 324.  A Nevada jury convicted respondent of rape; the evidence presented included DNA evidence matching respondent’s DNA pro-file. Nevertheless, relying upon a report prepared by aDNA expert over 11 years after the trial, the Federal District Court applied the Jackson standard and grantedthe writ. A divided Court of Appeals affirmed. Brown v. Farwell, 525 F. 3d 787 (CA9 2008). We granted certiorarito consider whether those courts misapplied Jackson. Because the trial record includes both the DNA evidence and other convincing evidence of guilt, we conclude thatthey clearly did.

January 11, 2010 at 03:28 PM | Permalink


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This opinion labels one (of many) errors in the Ninth Circuit as "egregious".

How many more Ninth Circuit decisions (typically authored by Dem appointees) have to be tossed like this for the press etc. to notice this issue? How many other bad decisions are being left undisturbed because of the limitations on the ability of the Supreme Court to hear lots of cases?

The Ninth Circuit's opinion in this case was, to put it mildly, a joke.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 11, 2010 5:09:31 PM

I agree with you that the logic of the opinion was a joke but it frankly got the correct result. I certainly hope he has the ability and the resources to prevent the proper complaint to the court. Because if there was a railroad this was it.

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 11, 2010 9:03:34 PM

sorry, that should read "present" not prevent.

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 11, 2010 9:04:16 PM

Daniel, they got the right guy. The defendant could always request further DNA tests to confirm his innocence, but he doesnt appear to be doing so. I wonder why.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 11, 2010 9:13:29 PM

federalist. Because the last time I checked the burden of proof was on the prosecution. The prosecution didn't meet that burden in a fair trial.

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 11, 2010 11:16:20 PM

The trial was constitutional.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 12, 2010 12:11:08 AM

federalist. That's your opinion. The SC never said it was constitutional. It only said to wasn't unconstitutional in the way this suit was advanced. I even agree with that. But it clearly was an unconstitutional trial.

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 12, 2010 1:01:31 AM

There are some outlier decisions in other circuits too, but since the SC leans conservative, such rulings are not really deemed so shocking, apparently. They are "right" you see. The 9th also is bigger which affects matters. But, sure, you have appellate circuits that practice a form of federalism (or regionalism), and one might lean liberal (when certain panels are in place), another conservative. This seems to me a feature, not a bug.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 12, 2010 10:02:44 AM

Joe, this is a little more than an outlier . . . .

Posted by: federalist | Jan 12, 2010 10:35:18 AM

Daniel, I don't think there's a constitutional right to 100% accuracy when it comes to witness testimony. In any event, the criminal has some weak IAC claims (prejudice is going to be hard to prove) left.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 12, 2010 10:36:42 AM

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