Not a death penalty case, just life imprisonment without parole for first degree murder. The California Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and sentence; the California Supreme Court denied review; state courts denied habeas corpus. Now to the federal courts who issued and reviewed endless rulings on habeas corpus and a jury instruction until the district court granted the petition on procedural grounds. The State of California appealed to the Ninth Circuit, and two of the three judge panel affirmed. The dissent skillfully corrected the error.
The only substantive issue in the case was a jury instruction. If the jury found evidence of property belonging to the victim in the defendant’s clothing at the time of his arrest they could infer that fact was evidence of his responsibility for the crime. The prosecution introduced other evidence in addition to discovery of the victim’s ring and guilt was well established.
After the panel discourse on habeas corpus the usual liberal panelists granted the petition because the jury instruction was not just a state statutory error but a violation of due process, a constitutional error! Of course no precedent cited for that invention of the law. The majority conjured up error of the trial court, including a few comments on the California courts who had affirmed the conviction. According to the majority, all the State courts analysis of the jury instruction were unreasonable.
The case consists of an endless discussion of habeas corpus procedure loading up the federal court and then drafting a 2-1 decision. The California State Attorney General should seek certiorari in the Supreme Court. Another reversal will add to the Ninth Circuit record. Two courts, state and federal, review the same case of the trial and reading appeals. After untold hours of federal time wasted, and all state courts affirm the conviction, and a federal court disagrees. When will Congress remove habeas corpus jurisdiction in federal courts?