Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Follow up: United States Supreme Court reverses 9th Circuit ruling that found courtroom spectators' wearing large buttons that pictured the "accused" defendant's victim required a new trial; majority opinion by Justice Thomas finds no "clearly established" federal law as Lucky Iromuanya's attorneys would have us believe CAREY, WARDEN v. MUSLADIN, MATHEW No. 05-785. Argued October 11, 2006 -- Decided December 11, 2006 Shades (or buttons) of State of Nebraska v. Lucky Iromuanya(NSBA summary) the Ninth Circuit court of appeals had reversed at habeas level the defendant's conviction because the family members of the victim sat in the front of the courtroom during the trial wearing photograph buttons of the victim depriving the defendant of his right to a fair trial under the Fourteenth Amendment and Sixth Amendment. the United States Supreme Court, Justice Thomas for the majority reverses finding the law on private conduct in the courtroom, aside from mob scene trials, a murky area: the effect on a defendant’s fair-trial rights of the spectator conduct to which Musladin objects is an open question in our jurisprudence. This Court has never addressed a claim that such private-actor courtroom conduct was so inherently prejudicial that it deprived a defendant of a fair trial.2 And although the Court articulated the test for inherent prejudice that applies to state conduct in Estelle v. Williams, 425 U. S. 501, 503–506 (1976 and Holbrook v. Flynn, 475 U. S. 560, 568 (1986), we have never applied that test to spectators’ conduct. Indeed, part of the legal test of Williams and Flynn—asking whether the practices furthered an essential state interest—suggests that those cases apply only to state-sponsored practices. Maybe the Supreme Court will find it less murky on Lucky's pro bono lawyers' cert pet to the Supremes

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