Horn v. Banks,
536 U.S. 266 (2002)

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No. 01-1385. Decided June 17,2002

A Pennsylvania trial court sentenced respondent to death on each of his 12 convictions of first-degree murder. The verdict form in the trial's penalty phase required, in relevant part, the jury to check a box indicating that it found unanimously either at least one aggravating circumstance and no mitigating circumstances or one or more aggravating circumstances outweighing any mitigating circumstances. The jury marked the latter box. After respondent's direct appeal was denied, this Court held that the Constitution prohibits a State from requiring jurors unanimously to agree that a particular mitigating circumstance exists before they may consider that circumstance in their sentencing determination, Mills v. Maryland, 486 U. S. 367, 374. In subsequent state postconviction proceedings, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected respondent's claim that the instructions to the jury and the verdict forms in his case suggested that the mitigating circumstance findings had to be unanimous. In denying his later federal habeas petition, the District Court did not address whether Mills was retroactive, finding instead the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) review standard dispositive. The Third Circuit reversed in part, granting relief under Mills. It found that it did not need to evaluate whether Mills applied retroactively per Teague v. Lane, 489 U. S. 288, because the State Supreme Court had not ruled on retroactivity, and it found the state court's application of federal law unreasonable under Mills and Boyde v. Galifornia, 494 U. S. 370.

Held: The Third Circuit erred when it failed to perform a Teague analysis.

Whether to apply the Teague rule-that new constitutional rules of criminal procedure generally do not apply to cases that became final before the new rules were announced, 489 U. S., at 31O-is a threshold question in every habeas case. A federal court may decline to apply Teague if a State does not argue it; but if the State does argue Teague, the court must apply it before considering the claim's merits. Gaspari v. Bohlen, 510 U. S. 383. Here, petitioners raised the Teague issue both in the District Court and in the Third Circuit. To the extent that the latter court's opinion can be read to imply that AEDPA has changed Gaspari's legal principles, none of this Court's post-AEDPA cases have


suggested that habeas should automatically issue if a prisoner satisfies the AEDPA review standard or that AEDPA relieves courts from the responsibility of addressing properly raised Teague arguments.

Certiorari granted; reversed and remanded.


The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit granted respondent federal habeas corpus relief from his death sentence. 271 F.3d 527 (2001). Applying the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) standard of review,1 the Court of Appeals concluded that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had unreasonably applied federal law in evaluating respondent's claim that his penalty phase jury instructions and verdict forms were improper under Mills v. Maryland, 486 U. S. 367 (1988). The Court of Appeals found it unnecessary to evaluate whether Mills applies retroactively to cases on habeas review per Teague v. Lane, 489 U. S. 288 (1989), because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had not ruled on retroactivity. 271 F. 3d, at 541-543. In avoiding the Teague issue, the Court of Appeals directly contravened Gaspari v. Bohlen, 510 U. S. 383 (1994), in which we held that federal courts must address the Teague question when it is properly argued by the government. We thus grant the petition for a writ of certiorari and reverse the Court of Appeals' determination that a Teague analysis was unnecessary.2

ITitle 28 U. S. C. §2254(d) was modified by AEDPA and now provides, in part, that "[a]n application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim ... 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."

2We also grant respondent's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

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