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October 26, 2006

Sixth Circuit keeps Apprendi from state indictments

In an interesting habeas setting, the Sixth Circuit today in Williams v. Haviland, No. 05-3986 (6th Cir. Oct. 26, 2006) (available here), Sixth Circuit holds that Apprendi does not make the Fifth Amendment's grand jury right applicable to state criminal prosecutions. Here is how Judge Moore begins her thoughtful opinion:

This case requires us to consider whether Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), overturned the repeated holding of the Supreme Court, see, e.g., Rose v. Mitchell, 443 U.S. 545, 557 n.7 (1979), that the Fifth Amendment grand jury right, U.S. CONST. amend. V, was not incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment, U.S. CONST. amend. XIV, and thus does not apply to state prosecutions. Relying on Apprendi, the district court granted Petitioner-Appellee Samuel Williams's habeas petition on the ground that the indictment was constitutionally deficient under the Fifth Amendment grand jury right and the Sixth Amendment jury trial and notice rights because it failed to specify one of the essential elements of the charged offenses — specifically, the mens rea requirement.  The government appealed, arguing that the district court erred in relying on Apprendi because that decision did not address the sufficiency of the indictment nor did it extend the Fifth Amendment grand jury right to state prosecutions.  Because we agree that Apprendi had no effect on the constitutional requirements for indictments utilized in state prosecutions, we REVERSE the grant of habeas relief and REMAND for the district court to consider the remainder of Williams's habeas petition.

October 26, 2006 at 11:16 AM | Permalink


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This sure seems like the right decision. It seems the district court confused "jury" with "grand jury" ... Apprendi et al. have nothing to do with grand jury procedure. I wouldn't even call this a "creative argument" ... 6th Amend. jury trial has nothing to do with grand jury, which as the court points out, is not a right incorporated through the 14th Amendment to the states, as such, a grand jury was not constitutionally necessary in the first place.

Posted by: bruce | Oct 28, 2006 4:00:06 PM

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