Early v. Packer
537 U.S. 3 (2002)

Annotate this Case

OCTOBER TERM, 2002

Syllabus

EARLY, WARDEN, ET AL. v. PACKER

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

No. 01-1765. Decided November 4, 2002

A California jury convicted respondent of, inter alia, murder and attempted murder. On direct appeal, the State Court of Appeal rejected his claim that the trial judge coerced his deadlocked jury into continuing deliberations. The Federal District Court dismissed respondent's subsequent federal habeas petition but granted a certificate of appealability on the question whether the state trial judge violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights by coercing the jury into rendering a verdict. The Ninth Circuit reversed on that ground and instructed the District Court to grant the writ.

Held: The Ninth Circuit's decision exceeds the limits imposed on federal habeas review by 28 U. S. C. § 2254(d), which forecloses habeas relief on any claim adjudicated on the merits in state-court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim resulted in a decision that (1) was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, or (2) was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state-court proceedings. The Ninth Circuit erred in believing that a state court's "failure to cite" controlling Supreme Court precedent renders its decision "contrary to" clearly established federal law. Awareness of this Court's cases is not even required, so long as neither the reasoning nor the result of the state-court decision contradicts them. The Ninth Circuit also erred in charging that the Court of Appeal did not apply the totality-of-the-circumstances test required by Lowenfield v. Phelps, 484 U. S. 231. Finally, the Ninth Circuit erred in finding our holdings in Jenkins v. United States, 380 U. S. 445 (per curiam), and United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 438 U. S. 422, which were based on the Court's supervisory power over the federal courts and not on constitutional grounds, applicable to statecourt proceedings. Because the Ninth Circuit erroneously found that the State Court of Appeal's decision was contrary to clearly established Supreme Court law, and because it is at least reasonable to conclude that there was no jury coercion here, the State Court of Appeal's determination to that effect must stand.

Certiorari granted; 291 F.3d 569, reversed.


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Per Curiam

PER CURIAM.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted habeas relief to respondent William Packer after concluding that the state trial judge coerced the jury's verdict. Packer v. Hill, 291 F.3d 569 (2002). Because this decision exceeds the limits imposed on federal habeas review by 28 U. S. C. § 2254(d), we grant the petition for certiorari and reverse.

I

A California jury convicted respondent of one count of second-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of attempted robbery, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and one count of assault with a firearm. It acquitted him on 10 other counts.

The path to the jury's guilty verdicts on the murder and attempted-murder charges was not an easy one. After 28 hours of deliberation, and after the jury had returned sealed verdict forms on all the other charges, juror Eve Radcliff sent a note to the judge requesting to be dismissed from the jury due to "'health problems.''' 291 F. 3d, at 573. The judge then met alone with Radcliff, who explained that" 'because of the seriousness of the charges, I can't make snap decisions .... I was beginning to feel a little burned out.''' Ibid. The judge asked Radcliff if she could "'hold out just a little bit longer,'" and when Radcliff agreed the judge replied: " 'I really appreciate it. Otherwise, they have to start deliberations all over again with another person.''' Ibid. (emphasis deleted).

The next day, the foreman sent the judge a note stating that "'we can no longer deliberate,'" that "'Eve Radcliff, does not appear to be able to understand the rules as given by you,'" that "'nearly all my fellow jurors questio[n] her ability to understand the rules and her ability to reason,'" and that continuing will result in a "'hung jury ... based on ... one person's inability to reason or desire to be unreasonable.' " Ibid. The judge called the jury into the court-


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Full Text of Opinion

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