Dugger v. Adams,
489 U.S. 401 (1989)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Dugger v. Adams, 489 U.S. 401 (1989)

Dugger v. Adams

No. 87-121

Argued November 1, 1988

Decided February 28, 1989

489 U.S. 401


At the start of jury selection for respondent's Florida state court trial for first-degree murder, the trial judge instructed the prospective jurors on their responsibility for the sentence they would recommend, stating that the court, not the jury, was responsible for sentencing, and that the jury had merely an advisory role. Defense counsel did not object to these instructions. The jury found respondent guilty and recommended the death sentence, which the trial judge then imposed. The Florida Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence on direct appeal in which respondent did not allege as error, on either state or federal grounds, the above instructions. Nor did he so allege in a subsequent unsuccessful motion in state court for postconviction relief or in a later unsuccessful federal habeas corpus petition. Thereafter, it was held in Caldwell v. Mississippi, 472 U. S. 320, that the prosecutor's remarks that misinformed the jury in a capital case as to the role of appellate review violated the Eighth Amendment. Based on Caldwell, respondent filed another motion in state court for postconviction relief, challenging for the first time the instructions in question and arguing that they violated the Eighth Amendment by misinforming the jury of its sentencing role under Florida law because the Florida Supreme Court in another case had held that a trial judge could override the jury's recommended sentence only if the facts were "so clear and convincing that virtually no reasonable person could differ," and that therefore, since the trial judge in this case had told the jurors that the sentencing responsibility was solely his, and failed to tell them that he could override their verdict only under limited circumstances, the judge misled the jury in violation of Caldwell. On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court refused to address this argument because respondent had failed to raise it on direct appeal. The Caldwell claim was then raised in respondent's second federal habeas petition, and the District Court held that the claim was procedurally barred. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the claim was so novel at the time of respondent's trial, sentencing, and appeal that its legal basis was not reasonably available, and that therefore he had established cause for his procedural default. The court then proceeded to hold that the instructions in question violated the Eighth Amendment.

Page 489 U. S. 402

Held: Caldwell does not provide cause for respondent's procedural default. Despite the availability of a claim that the instructions in question violated state law, respondent did not object to them at trial or challenge them on appeal. As a result, Florida law barred him from raising the issue in later state proceedings. Respondent offered no excuse for his failure to challenge the instructions on state law grounds, and there is none that would amount to good cause in a federal habeas proceeding. What is determinative in this case is that the ground for challenging the instructions -- that they were objectionable under state law -- was a necessary element of the subsequently available Caldwell claim. In such a case, the subsequently available federal claim did not excuse the procedural default. Reed v. Ross, 468 U. S. 1, distinguished. Pp. 489 U. S. 405-410.

804 F.2d 1526, and 816 F.2d 1493, reversed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and O'CONNOR, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 489 U. S. 412.

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