December 12, 2008
On Wednesday, October 15, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Waddington v. Sarausad and Hedgpeth v. Pulido. The Supreme Court here considers two federal habeas review cases from the Ninth Circuit involving jury instructions. Waddington centers on the issue of whether the jury that convicted Cesar Sarausad of second-degree murder, attempted murder, and assault was instructed properly on Washington state's accomplice liability law. State courts that heard Sarausad's challenge upheld the conviction, but the Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court's grant of federal habeas relief, finding a "reasonable likelihood" the jury had unconstitutionally misapplied their instructions to relieve the state of its burden of proof. The Supreme Court thus considers what deference the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act requires federal courts to give to state court determinations concerning jury instructions. Hedgpeth concerns Michael Pulido's conviction by an erroneously-instructed jury who found a special circumstance of robbery felony-murder. The California Supreme Court affirmed the conviction by applying modern harmless-error jurisprudence , but the Ninth Circuit considered the instructional error to be structural and affirmed again the District Court's grant of federal habeas relief. So the Supreme Court now considers whether clearly established federal law precludes the Ninth Circuit's grant of habeas relief. Baker Hostetler Partner Lee Casey discusses the cases.
Oral Argument for Waddington v. Sarausad - October 15, 2008:
Oral Argument for Hedgpeth v. Pulido - October 15, 2008: