Varghese v. Uribe

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 06-26-2013
  • Case #: 11-55686
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge M. Smith, Jr. for the Court; Chief Judge McKeown; Circuit Judge Kozinski
  • Full Text Opinion

When a state court has no specific legal rule to apply, its decision is not an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

Parrakkamannil Varghese was convicted of murder in California state court. During the initial proceedings, Varghese sought to have his own DNA expert examine a blood sample already tested by prosecution, with no obligation to report the results to the prosecution. The trial court offered to allow the test on the condition that Varghese released the results to the prosecution. Varghese denied the offer and was convicted by a jury. The California Court of Appeal affirmed. Varghese brought this 28 U.S.C. § 2254 federal habeas review claiming that the trial court's ruling denied him his rights to counsel and due process. A magistrate judge recommended that “his petition be denied under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996” (“AEDPA”) because there was no U.S. Supreme Court authority that directly addressed Varghese’s issue. The district court denied the petition but granted a certificate of appealability. The Ninth Circuit held that since there was no Supreme Court decision “squarely addresse[ing]” Varghese's case at the time the appellate court issued its opinion, there was no “unreasonable application of clearly established Federal law” under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The panel thus affirmed, giving deference to the state decision in the absence of applicable federal law under AEDPA. AFFIRMED.

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