Greene v. Fisher

Justia.com Opinion Summary: Defendant filed a federal habeas corpus petition in district court, alleging, inter alia, that the introduction of his nontestifying codefendants' statements violated the Confrontation Clause. At issue was whether "clearly established Federal law" under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. 2254(d)(1), included decisions of the Court that were announced after the last adjudication of the merits in state court but before defendant's conviction became final. The Court held that under Section 2254(d)(1), "clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" included only the Court's decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court adjudication on the merits. Because the Pennsylvania Superior Court's decision - the last state-court adjudication on the merits of defendant's claim - predated Gray v. Maryland by nearly three months, the Third Circuit correctly held that Gray was not "clearly established Federal law" against which it could measure the state-court decision. It therefore correctly concluded that the state court's decision neither was "contrary to," nor "involved an unreasonable application of," any "clearly established Federal law."

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NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

Syllabus

GREENE, aka TRICE v. FISHER, SUPERINTENDENT, STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION AT SMITHFIELD, et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the third circuit

No. 10–637. Argued October 11, 2011—Decided November 8, 2011

During petitioner Greene’s trial for murder, robbery, and conspiracy, the prosecution introduced the redacted confessions of two of Greene’s nontestifying codefendants. A jury convicted Greene. The Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld the conviction, reasoning that the rule announced in Bruton v. United States, 391 U. S. 123, did not apply because the confessions were redacted to remove any specific reference to Greene. While Greene’s petition to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was pending, this Court announced in Gray v. Maryland, 523 U. S. 185, that Bruton does apply to some redacted confessions. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to hear Greene’s appeal, and he then sought federal habeas relief. Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), a federal court may not grant such relief to a state prisoner on any claim that has been “adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings” unless that adjudication “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.” 28 U. S. C. §2254(d)(1). Here, the District Court concluded that, because the United States Supreme Court’s opinion in Gray had not yet been issued when the Pennsylvania Superior Court adjudicated Greene’s claim, the condition for granting habeas relief had not been met. The Third Circuit affirmed.

Held:

     1. Under §2254(d)(1), “clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States” includes only this Court’s decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court adjudication on the merits. The Court’s decision last Term in Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U. S. ___, established that §2254(d)(1)’s “backward-looking language requires an examination of the state-court decision at the time it was made.” Id., at ___. As the Court explained in Cullen, §2254(d)(1) requires federal courts to measure state-court decisions “against this Court’s precedents as of ‘the time the state court renders its decision.’ ” Id., at ___. That reasoning determines the result here. Pp. 3–6.

     2. Because the Pennsylvania Superior Court’s decision—the last state-court adjudication on the merits of Greene’s claim—predated Gray by nearly three months, the Third Circuit correctly held that Gray was not “clearly established Federal law” against which it could measure the state-court decision. It therefore correctly concluded that the state court’s decision neither was “contrary to,” nor “involved an unreasonable application of,” any “clearly established Federal law.” Pp. 6–7.

606 F. 3d 85, affirmed.

     Scalia, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.



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