RICHARD E. EARLY, WARDEN, et al. v.
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted habeas relief to respondent William Packer after concluding that the state trial judge coerced the jurys verdict. Packer v. Hill, 291 F.3d 569 (2002). Because this decision exceeds the limits imposed on federal habeas review by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), we grant the petition for certiorari and reverse.
A California jury convicted respondent of one count of second-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of attempted robbery, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and one count of assault with a firearm. It acquitted him on 10 other counts.
The path to the jurys guilty verdicts on the murder and attempted murder charges was not an easy one. After 28 hours of deliberation, and after the jury had returned sealed verdict forms on all the other charges, juror Eve Radcliff sent a note to the judge requesting to be dismissed from the jury due to
The next day, the foreman sent the judge a note stating that
The judge then asked the foreman what the latest vote count was, but told him not to reveal which side had which number of votes. The foreman indicated that the last vote count had been 11 to 1. After the foreman indicated that further deliberations would be helpful, the judge gave the following instruction to the jury:
At this point, defense counsel objected on the ground that the judge was improperly
Ladies and Gentlemen, the only thing Im going to tell you right now is; once again, I told you, youll look up in the instructions paraphrasing it, I think Im using the correct words: youre the sole judges of the facts. You determine the facts. You then apply the law to those facts as I state it to you, and you must accept and follow the law. You cant make up your own law. You must accept and follow the law as I state it to you.
The judge then excused the jury for the day.
After a day off, deliberations resumed on a Friday. Once again, Radcliff sent the judge a note asking to be dismissed from the jury. This time she complained about
Respondent appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeal for the State of California, Second Appellate District, arguing that the comments to Radcliff and to the jury were coercive and denied him his due process right to a fair and impartial jury. California law, unlike federal law, prohibits the giving of a so-called Allen v. United States, 164 U.S. 492 (1896), charge to a deadlocked jurythat is, a charge that specifically urges the minority jurors to give weight to the majoritys views. People v. Gainer, 19 Cal. 3d 835, 852, 566 P.2d 997, 1006 (1977) held that no instruction may be given which either (1) encourages jurors to consider the numerical division or preponderance of opinion on the jury in forming or reexamining their views on the issues before them; or (2) states or implies that if the jury fails to agree the case will necessarily be retried.
The state appellate court, applying Gainer, rejected respondents claim. [T]here is nothing improper, it said, in urging the jury to consider the matter further with the view to reach an agreement[,] as long as the language used does not coerce a particular type of verdict. Accordingly, the comments made and not made by the court to the jury did not coerce a particular verdict or deny Packer any constitutional rights. App. to Pet. for Cert. H-15 to H-16 (internal citations omitted). The court rejected respondents remaining challenges to his conviction, and the State Supreme Court declined review.
Respondent sought a writ of habeas corpus from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. That court dismissed the petition, but granted a certificate of appealability on the question whether the state trial judge violated respondents Fourteenth Amendment rights by coercing the jury into rendering a verdict on the attempted-murder and second-degree murder counts. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed on that ground, and instructed the District Court to grant the writ on the murder convictions. Californias Attorney General has petitioned for certiorari.
When a habeas petitioners claim has been adjudicated on the merits in state-court proceedings, 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) forecloses relief unless the state courts adjudication of the claim:
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.
The jury-coercion claim in respondents habeas petition is the same claim rejected on the merits in his direct appeal to the state appellate court, and the Ninth Circuit correctly recognized that §2254(d) was therefore applicable. It held that respondent had established that the decision of the Court of Appeal was contrary to established federal law for two, and possibly three, reasons. We think none of them correct.
First, the Ninth Circuit observed that the state court failed to cite . . . any federal law, much less the controlling Supreme Court precedents. Packer, 291 F.3d, at 578. If this meant to suggest that such citation was required, it was in error. A state-court decision is contrary to our clearly established precedents if it applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in our cases or if it confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of this Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from our precedent. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-406 (2000). Avoiding these pitfalls does not require citation of our casesindeed, it does not even require awareness of our cases, so long as neither the reasoning nor the result of the state-court decision contradicts them. The Ninth Circuits disapproval of the Court of Appeals failure to cite this Courts cases is especially puzzling since the state court cited instead decisions from the California Supreme Court that impose even greater restrictions for the avoidance of potentially coercive jury instructions. Compare People v. Gainer, 19 Cal. 3d 835, 852, 566 P.2d 997, 1006 (1977) with Allen v. United States, 164 U.S. 492, 501 (1896).
Second, the Ninth Circuit charged that the Court of Appeal failed to apply the totality of the circumstances test as required by Lowenfield [v. Phelps, 484 U.S. 231 (1988)]. That was so, the Ninth Circuit concluded, because it simply mentioned three particular incidents in its analysis, failed to consider other critical facts, and failed to consider the cumulative impact of all the significant facts, one of which it [did] not even mention in its analysis. Packer v. Hill, at 578579, and n. 10. With regard to the last point: The significant fact the Ninth Circuit said was not mentionedthat the judge sent the jury back to its deliberations after learning that it was split 11 to 1was in fact succinctly described. See 529 U.S. at 579, n. 10. The Court of Appeal focused its analysis upon three particular incidents for the entirely acceptable reason that (as the court said) those incidents constituted [t]he essence of Packers complaints regarding juror coercion. App. to Pet. for Cert. H-15. The opinion set forth many facts and circumstances beyond those three incidents, including the two critical facts that the Ninth Circuit said it failed to consider, Packer, supra, at 579, n. 10the judges knowledge that Radcliff was the sole dissenting juror prior to his instructing the jury to keep deliberating, App. to Pet. for Cert. H-14, and the fact that the foremans note, which mentioned Radcliff by name, was read in court, ibid. The contention that the California court failed to consider facts and circumstances that it had taken the trouble to recite strains credulity. The Ninth Circuit may be of the view that the Court of Appeal did not give certain facts and circumstances adequate weight (and hence adequate discussion); but to say that it did not consider them is an exaggeration. There is, moreover, nothing to support the Ninth Circuits claim that the Court of Appeal did not consider the cumulative impact of all the recorded events. Compliance with Lowenfield does not demand a formulary statement that the trial courts actions and inactions were noncoercive individually and cumulatively. It suffices that that was the fair import of the Court of Appeals opinion.
Third and last, the Ninth Circuit faulted the state appellate court for stating that
Having determined that the Court of Appeal failed to apply clearly established Supreme Court law, Packer v. Hill, supra, at 579 (a phrase which the opinion repeatedly and erroneously substitutes for the more demanding requirement of §2254(d)(1): that the decision be contrary to clearly established Supreme Court law), the Ninth Circuit then proceeded to address the question whether [the Court of Appeals] decision constituted error and if so whether the error had a substantial or injurious effect on the verdict. 291 F.3d, at 579. But that inquiry would have been proper only if the Ninth Circuit had first found (pursuant to the correct standard) that the California courts decision was contrary to clearly established Supreme Court lawwhich it did not and could not. By mistakenly making the contrary to determination and then proceeding to a simple error inquiry, the Ninth Circuit evaded §2254(d)s requirement that decisions which are not contrary to clearly established Supreme Court law can be subjected to habeas relief only if they are not merely erroneous, but an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law, or based on an unreasonable determination of the facts (emphasis added). Even if we agreed with the Ninth Circuit majority (Judge Silverman dissented) that there was jury coercion here, it is at least reasonable to conclude that there was not, which means that the state courts determination to that effect must stand.
The judgment of the Ninth Circuit is reversed.