- 513 U.S. 364 (1995)
OCTOBER TERM, 1994
DUNCAN, WARDEN v. HENRY
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
No.94-941. Decided January 23, 1995
Respondent, a rector and dean of a church day school, was convicted in a California court of sexually molesting a student. At trial, he objected to testimony by the parent of another child who claimed to have been molested 20 years earlier. On direct appeal, he argued that this error was a "miscarriage of justice" under the State Constitution, but the state appellate court found the error harmless. Respondent then filed a federal habeas petition, alleging that the evidentiary error violated federal due process, an argument that he had not made in the state proceedings. The District Court found that he had exhausted his state remedies and granted the petition. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
Held: Respondent did not exhaust his state remedies. If state courts are to be given the opportunity to correct alleged violations of prisoners' federal rights, they must be alerted to the fact that the prisoners are asserting claims under the United States Constitution. See Picard v. Connor, 404 U. S. 270; Anderson v. Harless, 459 U. S. 4. Since respondent did not raise his federal due process argument in the state court, that court understandably confined its analysis to the application of state law.
Certiorari granted; 33 F.3d 1037, reversed.
Respondent, a rector and dean of a church day school, was tried and convicted in state court of sexually molesting a 5-year-old student. At trial, respondent objected to testimony by the parent of another child who claimed to have been molested 20 years previously. His objection was based on Cal. Evid. Code Ann. § 352 (West 1966). On direct appeal, he pursued his evidentiary objection and requested the appellate court to find that the error was a "miscarriage of justice" under the California Constitution. California ap-
plies this provision in determining whether or not an error was harmless. People v. Watson, 46 Cal. 2d 818, 299 P. 2d 243 (1956). The California Court of Appeal found the error harmless and affirmed respondent's conviction. People v. Henry, No. CR23041 (2d Dist. 1990), App. D to Pet. for Cert.6.
Respondent then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in federal court, alleging that the evidentiary error amounted to a denial of due process under the United States Constitution. The District Court granted the petition and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed. Henry v. Estelle, 33 F.3d 1037 (1994). The court held that respondent had exhausted his state remedies even though he had not claimed a violation of any federal constitutional right in the state proceedings:
"In his direct appeal in state court, Henry did not label his claim a federal due process violation; he argued rather that Hackett's testimony was erroneously admitted because irrelevant and inflammatory, and that its admission resulted in a 'miscarriage of justice' under the California Constitution. However, to state a federal due process claim it is not necessary to invoke 'the talismanic phrase "due process of law'" or cite 'book and verse on the federal constitution' .... " Id., at 1040 (citations omitted).
In Picard v. Connor, 404 U. S. 270, 275 (1971), we said that exhaustion of state remedies requires that petitioners "fairly presen[t]" federal claims to the state courts in order to give the State the" 'opportunity to pass upon and correct' alleged violations of its prisoners' federal rights" (some internal quotation marks omitted). If state courts are to be given the opportunity to correct alleged violations of prisoners' federal rights, they must surely be alerted to the fact that the pris-