Crosby v. Schwartz

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 05-04-2012
  • Case #: 10-17726
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge M. Smith for the Court; Circuit Judge McKeown; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Circuit Judge Noonan
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), a denial of a writ of habeas corpus is reviewed under an extremely deferential standard and the denial will only be reversed if: the decision is contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, federal law; or if the decision was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts.

Courtney Crosby was convicted of failing to register as a sex offender. Because of his prior convictions of rape, forced copulation and robbery, he was convicted and sentenced to 26 years to life under California's Three Strikes Law. The Court of Appeals affirmed the sentence. Crosby appealed on three grounds: the invalidity of his jury trial waiver; the district court's denial of his withdrawal of the jury waiver; and the sentence imposed constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. The Ninth Circuit, reviewing the decision under a deferential standard required by the AEDPA, determined the decision was not an unreasonable application of established federal law. First, the jury waiver met all the necessary guidelines: Crosby understood what he was giving up, his attorney and the District Attorney agreed, and the court sanctioned it. Next, the withdrawal of the waiver was correctly denied because it was withdrawn on the morning of the trial, when several days had elapsed after the waiver and witnesses were prepared to speak. Finally, the sentence was not disproportionate because Crosby was convicted of failing to update his address. To reach this conclusion, the Court distinguished between two registration requirements. The address change requirement allows law enforcement to keep track of sex offenders, per state statute. Annual registration, on the other hand, is a back-up formality to ensure police have accurate information. The Court reasoned registering a change of address is crucial to the enforcement of the law, while a similar sentence may be excessive for the more regulatory function provided by the annual registration requirement. The Court concluded the lower courts did not unreasonably apply clearly established federal or state law, and thus the decision to deny the writ of habeas corpus was not objectively unreasonable. AFFIRMED.

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