Thursday, March 31, 2005

McNeil v. Middleton

No. 01-56565 (3-29-05). This was a remand from the Supremes (never a good sign). The panel had originally granted a writ, finding that petitioner had presented a Battered Wife Syndrome defense, but that the jury instructions, carefully read, as courts assume they are, would have precluded the jury from considering such a defense. The state trial court had given an erroneous definition of "imminent peril" so that, in a "lawyerly reading," the jury may have considered that one could find an imminent peril but not defend against it. The Supremes in Middleton v. McNeil, 541 US 433 (2004)(per curiam) took the 9th to task for being too scholastic. Thus, on remand, the panel (Fernandez) said that the Supremes, in no uncertain terms, told them not to read so carefully, or be so gullible as to the conclusion, and essentially to get on with it. The 9th thus found that the jury could have used the correct definition to return a guilty verdict for 2nd degree (although acquitting of voluntary manslaughter) and the error was non-prejudicial. Petitioner's lack of actual belief in the need for self-defense made the instructional errors regarding reasonableness non-prejudicial. The state courts' conclusions were not unreasonable. Dissenting, Paez still had "grave doubt" that due process was followed because the instructions could be read to gut the Battered Wife defense by precluding the reasonableness of petitioner's defense.
Because this is a Fernandez opinion, we have the usual "reach for the dictionary" words. The ones here are "recrudescent," "daedalian," "banausic," "fossicked" and "bosk."


Post a Comment

<< Home