Rainwater Law Group

Effective Criminal Defense

Crittenden v. Chappell, No. 13-17327 [October 26, 2015]

Crittenden v. Chappell

A state prisoner raises a claim under Batson v. Kentucky after being convicted in two murders in California. The district court, after a remand to consider the 9th decision in Cook v. LaMarque, held that the peremptory challenge was motivated in substantial part by race, regardless of whether the strike would have issued if race had played no role. On appeal the state argued that Cook should not be applied retroactively; the district court failed to apply deference as required by the AEDPA; the district court improperly rejected the magistrate judge’s credibility determination; and the district court erred in finding that “the prosecutor was substantially motivated by race.” The court held that Cook merely clarified the standard of proof for Batson claims and not a new rule and, therefore, was to be used retroactively. Secondly, the state court’s decision was not owed deference as it was contrary to clearly established federal law and the state court’s factual findings were rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. Third the district court did not reject any of the magistrate judge’s credibility determinations. Finally, “the district court’s finding that the prosecutor was substantially motivated by race was not clearly erroneous.”

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Smith v Clark, No. 14-15162 [October 22, 2015]

Smith v. Clark

Judge Fletcher writes a dissent from a denial of rehearing in banc. The issue was whether Mr. Smith, a 16-year-old, was “in custody” at the time of his confession. The California state court found he was not “in custody” exclusively because he “was told three times that he was not under arrest and was free to go.” The dissent would have held that California misread the Supreme Court holding in California v. Beheler “establishes a bright-line rule that a suspect who has been repeatedly told that he is ‘not under arrest’ is not ‘in custody’ under Miranda. But this is not the law. A police officer cannot remove an interrogation from Miranda’s reach simply by reciting magic words.” He further express concern about the nationwide use of telling a suspect he is “not under arrest” by police departments, including the FBI, who have so interpreted the Supreme Court opinion. In this particular case, one of the officers asked another “are you Beheler-ing here, which the answer was “Yes.”

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McMonagle v. Meyer, No. 12-15360 [October 6, 2015]

McMonagle v. Meyer

McMonagle’s petition was dismissed by the district court as untimely. The issue was when did his misdemeanor conviction became final for the purposes of AEDPA’s one-year limitations period. The en banc court overrules its previous opinion in Larche v. Simons, 53 F.3d 1068 (9th Cir. 1995) because it “creates needless confusion for California misdemeanants seeking federal review.” Here, because McMonagle relied on Larche he is entitled to equitable tolling and the case is remanded to the district court to hear his petition on the merits. Larche held that California misdemeanants must seek habeas relief from the California Supreme Court in order to exhaust their claims. [Even though California law provides the misdemeanor conviction is final when the Court of Appeal denies a hearing]. Although Larche, a pre-AEDPA case did not discuss finality, it created undue confusion for misdemeanor habeas petitioners, particularly because of the confusing language used by the Court.

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