Section 2254

The Federal Docket

Jones v. Hendrix (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2023)

In a 6-3 opinion, the majority reinforced that a petitioner cannot file a second or subsequent motion to vacate a sentence under 28 USC 2255 unless they can show “newly discovered evidence” or a “new rule of constitutional law.” Even though a majority of circuits had held that the “savings clause” under 2255(e) creates an additional exception when the available options are “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention,” the Court held that this exception did not apply to second or subsequent motions.

Marcyniuk v. Payne (8th Cir. July 2022)

The Eighth Circuit affirmed a district court’s denial of a defendant’s 2254 motion which had been based on the defendant not being present when certain jurors were stricken off-the-record and before jury selection began. The Court reasoned that the claim was barred by defendant’s failure to raise it earlier, despite the fact that the records regarding the jury selection had been separately held by the clerk and not transmitted with the record during the prior direct appeal.

Shoop v. Twyford (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2022)

In a 5-4 opinion, the Supreme Court held that federal district courts do not have the authority under the All Writs Act to issue a transportation order for a prisoner held in state custody so the prisoner may search for exonerating evidence in an evidentiary hearing. To issue such an order, an inmate petitioner must make a showing that the evidence is admissible and supports one of their possible habeas claims. The decision limits district courts’ ability to develop and consider new evidence in Habeas cases.

Shinn v. Martinez Ramirez (SCOTUS, May 2022)

In a 6-3 opinion, the Supreme Court held that there is no right to counsel in state post-conviction proceedings and, as such, a petitioner’s ineffective assistance claim must be evident on the face of the state court record, rather than developed through an evidentiary hearing.

Brown v. Davenport (U.S. Supreme Court, April 2022)

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that a federal court reviewing a state court’s denial of a habeas petition must apply the standards set forth under AEDPA and the Supreme Court’s holding in Brecht v. Abrahamson, where the Court held that a state prisoner must show that an error had a “substantial and injurious effect or influence” on his trial. AEDPA, on the other hand, sets forth a standard that is more difficult to meet–the state prisoner must show that the state court’s judgment was “contrary to” or an “unreasonable application” of “clearly established federal law.”

Accordingly, state prisoners challenging their convictions in federal court will not only have to show error or ineffective assistance of counsel at the trial level and error at the appellate level, they will also have to show prejudice under Brecht and that the appellate courts that affirmed the judgment did contrary to, or in an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law.

Wilber v. Hepp (7th Cir. October 2021)

The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s order vacating the defendant’s conviction after the defendant argued that his due process rights were violated when he was visibly shackled and restrained in a wheelchair with a stun bracelet on his arm during his state trial. The Court held that, even if the restraints were necessary, there was no finding on the record that it was necessary for them to be visible, especially since the defendant’s alleged misconduct mostly took place outside the courtroom and involved “disrespectful” words and gestures outside the presence of the jury. The error was not harmless.

Ervine Davenport v. Duncan MacLaren, Warden (6th Cir. June 2020)

The Court vacated the defendant’s state law conviction for first degree murder. The defendant’s shackling during trial violated clearly established federal law and was not harmless since the evidence of first-degree premeditation was not overwhelming.

Willie B. Smith, III v. Commissioner (11th Cir. May 2019)

The Court affirmed the district court’s denial of the defendant’s habeas petition under § 2254. The defendant failed to show that the state court’s denial of Atkins claim of ineligibility for the death penalty due to intellectual disability or denial of his Batson claim were contrary to clearly established law or constituted an unreasonable determination of the facts. The Court also held that the requirement in Moore v. Texas that state courts consider prevailing medical standards in adjudicating Atkins claims was not retroactive under Teague.

Ricky Langley v. Warden (5th Cir. June 2019), EN BANC

The Court held that the state court’s ruling that the defendant’s third conviction for murder was not barred by the double jeopardy clause was not contrary to clearly established law as stated in the Supreme Court’s holding Ashe v. Swenson, since Ashe applies to prosecutions following general acquittals for the same conduct, not convictions, even where a defendant is convicted on a lesser-included offense.

Michael Wade Nance v. Warden (11th Cir. April 2019)

Reviewing a petitioner’s § 2254 motion, the Court held that the state court’s rejection of petitioner’s ineffective claim was objectively reasonable since trial counsel’s decision to refrain from presenting certain mitigation evidence at death penalty sentencing was a strategic decision. The Court also held that the state court did not go against clearly established federal law in holding that the trial court did not err in requiring defendant to wear a stun belt under his clothes because the Supreme Court has only established that requiring visible restraints is prejudicial.

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