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October 29, 2012

SCOTUS offering more habeas fun this Term with new cert grants

As reported in this SCOTUSblog post, the US Supreme Court this morning granted cert in four new cases, and two involve habeas review:

[The] new cases includ[e] a plea to give convicted individuals a new chance to claim that their defense lawyers in state court failed to perform adequately.  That is an issue that arose in the wake of last Term’s decision in Martinez v. Ryan.  The new case on that question is Trevino v. Thaler (11-10870).

[Another of the] granted cases [includes] a test of whether a convicted individual’s claim of innocence of the crime will be treated as an excuse for failing to pursue a federal habeas challenge on time (McQuiggin v. Perkins, 12-126).

October 29, 2012 at 10:59 AM | Permalink


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The most important sentencing case decided today was Mauricio v. California, No. 11-10139. , --- U.S. ---, --- S.Ct --- (Oct. 29, 2012. 12). In Mauricio, the Court issued a GVR to reconsider a California case in light of Miller. What's interesting is that the case involves discretionary LWOP for a homicide offense. The lower court decision is People v. Mauricio, Calf. 2d Dist. No. B224505, 2011 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 9073 (Nov. 28, 2011). It looks like California courts keep unpublished opinions online for much less than a year, so I can't link to it.

This is important because some prosecutors have argued that Miller only bars mandatory LWOP. In fact, the opinion does much more. It requires that trial courts consider youth as a mitigating factor before imposing a sentence of life without parole. In Ohio, youth is not a statutory mitigating factor, so there is no reason to presume that a trial court has considered youth unless is says it has.

And yeah, I know misread an earlier SCOTUS GVR decision and incorrectly posted that it concerned a discretionary LWOP for a homicide offense. But I posted that in haste, and almost immediately corrected it. I learned my lesson. I have read, re-read, and asked others to read this opinion. We all agree.

Conflict Watch: I have filed a jurisdictional memorandum asking the Ohio Supreme Court to hear an appeal from an Ohio Court of Appeals decision that held, almost summarily, that Miller can never apply to non-mandatory LWOP sentences.

Posted by: Stephen Hardwick | Oct 29, 2012 4:17:21 PM

Immediately after Miller/Jackson, the Court GVR'd Guillen v. California, No. 11-8655, which was also a discretionary LWOP case out of Cal. So Mauricio simply follows that precedent. It's clear that Cal's "discretionary" LWOP isn't Miller/Jackson-compliant b/c Cal case law says LWOP is the "presumptive" sentence -- as the Cal Ct App held in People v. Moffet, No. A133032, just a few weeks ago.

Posted by: dh | Oct 29, 2012 8:42:55 PM

Thanks, I had not noticed Guillen. Regardless of whether LWOP is "presumptive," my reading of the California cases is that judges there still have full discretion to impose life with parole. At a minimum, Guillen and Mauricio demonstrate that prosecutors are simply wrong if they argue that Miller can never apply unless a statute mandates LWOP. That is what Ohio's First Appellate District held eight days after Miller came out. And that is what the prosecutor in that case continues to assert.

Posted by: Stephen Hardwick | Oct 30, 2012 8:30:42 AM

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