Jones v. Davis

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 11-12-2015
  • Case #: 14-56373
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Graber for the Court; Circuit Judges Rawlinson and Watford; Concurrence by Watford
  • Full Text Opinion

Federal courts may not consider novel constitutional theories on habeas review, without considering all parties’ arguments regarding exhaustion.

Ernest DeWayne argues that California’s post-conviction system makes the time between conviction and sentencing too long, in that it violates a prisoner’s Eighth Amendment right to prohibit cruel and unusual punishment. There are more than 900 prisoners who were sentenced to death in California since 1978, and only 13 have been executed. The process for those likely to be executed takes about 25 years. Under Teague v. Lane, federal courts cannot consider new constitutional theories on habeas review, without considering the parties’ arguments about exhaustion. The district court had said that while the Teague decision holds true, the claim that states should not arbitrarily inflict the death penalty is not new, and that Teague did not bar DeWayne’s claim. However, on appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that because DeWayne’s claim wants to apply a novel constitutional rule, the claim is barred under Teague. The panel reiterated that the Teague principle serves the purpose of ensuring that gradual changes in the law that jurists would most likely disagree about are not later used to disrupt the finality of state convictions that were valid when entered. REVERSED.

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