- Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
- Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
- Date Filed: 09-01-2011
- Case #: 10-15067
- Judge(s)/Court Below: District Judge Gertner for the Court; Circuit Judges Thomas and Fletcher
- Full Text Opinion
Levi Jackson (Jackson) was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and armed robbery then sentenced to death. Jackson first appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court claiming the jury instructions concerning felony murder were erroneous because it relieved the prosecution of proving each of the charged elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, that he was entitled to habeas relief, and that he had ineffective assistance of counsel because counsel failed to object to the jury instructions. The Arizona Supreme Court denied review of his claims and Jackson appealed to the federal district court. The district court also dismissed his claims. Jackson then appealed to the Ninth Circuit. The felony murder instruction at issue that was read to the jury during trial stated, “homicide need not have been committed to perpetuate the felony…It is enough if the felony and the killing were part of the same series of events.” The Ninth Circuit determined that a reasonable jury would have seen this instruction as negating the need to find the murder was in furtherance of the felony (a requirement of felony murder) because of the language, “it is enough if the felony and the killing were part of the same series of events,” and thus applied the instruction in contravention of the Constitution. Because the Ninth Circuit found that the jury instructions were unconstitutional, it did not reach the ineffective assistance of counsel claim, and thus remanded the case back to the district court to determine if Jackson’s counsel’s failure to object to the jury instructions at the time of trial amounted to performance deficient enough to warrant an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. REMANDED.