Sims v. Rowland
No. 03-17256 (7-20-05). In a state armed robbery case, the first question the jury sent out was whether the defendant had access to their addresses and phone numbers. The judge, with counsel's assent, sent back a detailed answer instructing that the questionnaires had been shredded, and that the transcript was sealed. The jury sent still another question, asking for a blank copy of the questionnaire. None of this was good for the defendant, who was convicted one hour after the last question. In post-conviction, he argues that the court should have held a hearing regarding juror bias. The 9th affirmed the dismissal, reasoning that there was no Supreme Court precedent on the issue of whether juror bias was structural error mandating a hearing sua sponte. The 9th discusses some of its own precedents, recognizing that it doesn't bind the state court, and shouldn't serve to indicate an unreasonable application. The precedent indicates though that not every allegation of juror bias triggers a hearing, and that it depends on the allegation and circumstances. The 9th found that the state did not act in violation of clearly established Supreme Court precedent.