Fifth Amendment/Shackling –
Ervine Davenport filed a habeas petition to vacate his state conviction for first degree murder. He had been visibly shackled at the waist, wrist, and ankles during his trial. His petition was initially denied by the district court, which held that it was error, but harmless error.
On appeal, the Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that “shackling is inherently prejudicial” and violated clearly established federal law and that the error was not harmless because the evidence of premeditation and deliberation supporting the first degree murder conviction “was not overwhelming.” Since it was not overwhelming, the State did not meet its burden to show the restraints did not have “a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury’s verdict.”
The trial involving competing theories of self-defense and premeditation based on the Davenport allegedly choking the victim while she was acting violent and out of control. The prosecutor had indicated in closing that, while the evidence was sufficient for first-degree murder, it was “at the very least obviously” a second-degree murder and earlier had said the difference between first and second-degree was “the only real issue” at trial.
Judge Readler dissented, objecting that AEDPA deference in this case would have meant requiring a finding that the state court’s “harmless determination itself” was an “unreasonable application of clearly established law.”
Appeal from the Western District of Michigan
Opinion by Stranch, joined by Cole
Dissenting Opinon by Readler
Click here to read the opinion.