Rainwater Law Group

Effective Criminal Defense

Williams v Johnson, No. 07-56127 [October 21, 2016]

Williams v. Johnson

On remand from the United States Supreme Court. Williams claims that the dismissal of a holdout juror was a violation of her Sixth Amendment rights. The Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s grant of the writ, after finding that the claim had not been “adjudicated on the merits in the State court,” holding “[w]hen a state court rejects a federal claim without expressly addressing that claim, a federal court must presume that the federal claim was adjudicated on the merits.” Thereafter, the Ninth Circuits order affirming the district court’s denial of the petition was vacated by the Supreme Court, instructing the Ninth Circuit to review the merits of the claim under the standard in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Williams first claim that the inquiry of the juror violated the Sixth Amendment by impermissibly intruding on jury deliberations. The Court found that the hearing focused on the issue of jury bias, not on the nature of the jury’s devision and, therefore, “process employed by the trial judge was not contrary to, nor an unreasonable application of, Supreme Court authority.” Next, Williams argued that there was a reasonable probability that the juror was excused because of his views as to guilt or innocence, the theory on which the Ninth Circuit had previously granted the petition based on its case law. Under AEDPA review the court cannot rely on its own precedent and the Court found no controlling Supreme Court case, therefore, she is not entitled to habeas relief on this theory. William’s final argument is that state appellate court unreasonably approved the dismissal of the juror for bias. The Court rejected the argument finding that contrary to William’s argument the “state appellate court did find that Juror 6 was biased because he would not follow the law” an approved reason by the Supreme Court. Further, the finding was not unreasonable. Even if the trial judge did not make a finding that Juror 6 was unwilling to follow the law, the state appellate court did make such a finding.

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