Thompson v. Runnels

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 01-24-2013
  • Case #: 08-16186
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Ikuta for the Court; Circuit Judge Goodwin concurring; Circuit Judge Berzon dissenting
  • Full Text Opinion

For habeas petitions under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the correct law to be applied is the “clearly established Federal law” at the time of the final state adjudication, and not law created after the state decision.

Antwoin Thompson (Thompson) twice confessed to the murder of his girlfriend during a police interrogation. He was not given Miranda warnings prior to the first confession, but the warnings were provided before the second confession. The trial court declined to suppress the second confession at trial, and Thompson was convicted. On appeal, Thompson argued the Miranda warnings were deliberately delayed by investigators, and cited a case pending before the Supreme Court, Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004). The California Court of Appeals held it was bound by the clearly established law at the time on the issue of suppression, Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298 (1985), and the statements were admissible because they were knowingly and voluntarily made. Thompson filed a habeas petition, and the federal district court found Seibert did not apply because there was no evidence officers deliberately withheld Miranda warnings until Thompson confessed. The Ninth Circuit reversed, and the state petitioned for certiorari. Greene v. Fisher, 132 S. Ct. 38 (2011) was decided while certiorari was pending, which held that clearly established law is assessed as of the time of the final state court decision. The case was remanded to the Ninth Circuit for reconsideration under Greene. Timing no longer at issue, the Court held that the Court of Appeal’s determination of admissibility was not a contrary or unreasonable application of Elstad. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) requires a determination of whether the “clearly established Federal law” was correctly applied by the lower court. The Court found the state had not waived its argument that Elstad was the only clearly established law, as that issue had been fully addressed by both parties. The Court held the applicable law was Elstad, Thompson’s rights were not violated, and declined to stay federal proceedings. AFFIRMED.

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