Smith v. Oregon Board of Parole

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 11-26-2013
  • Case #: 11-35338
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Chief Judge Kozinski; Circuit Judges Berzon and Hurwitz
  • Full Text Opinion

A federal habeas claim is not procedurally defaulted even when an objection is not raised during trial, if the claim is rejected without any discussion or citation.

Michael Smith was charged with first- and second-degree kidnapping, third-degree robbery, and second-degree assault. During Smith’s trial, the state sought to admit an unavailable witness’s statements, but Smith objected to admission of these statements on hearsay grounds. The statements were admitted even without an applicable hearsay exception being identified and Smith was found guilty of third-degree robbery and second-degree assault. On his direct appeal, Smith raised a Confrontation Clause challenge to the unavailable witness’s statements that were used to convict him. After the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed Smith’s convictions, he filed a federal habeas corpus petition claiming that the witness’s statements violated the Confrontation Clause. However, the district court found this claim procedurally defaulted since Smith did not preserve the claim during his trial. Although an argument concerning evidence is generally barred on appeal if not preserved at trial, an appellate court may address an argument if the trial court committed error. Typically an unpreserved federal constitutional claim does not qualify for plain error review, but the Oregon Court of Appeals rejected Smith’s Confrontation Clause claim without any discussion or citation. Smith’s claim was not procedurally defaulted, so the Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s dismissal of Smith’s habeas petition and remanded for further proceedings. VACATE and REMAND.

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