Hedlund v. Ryan

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 03-04-2016
  • Case #: 09-99019
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge N.R. Smith for the Court; Circuit Judges Wardlaw and Be a; Concurrence by Judge Be a; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Judge Wardlaw
  • Full Text Opinion

A casual nexus test forbids the court from giving weight to non-statutory mitigating evidence unless the evidence was casually connected to the crime.

In 1991, Charles Hedlund was convicted of one count of first degree murder for the killing of Jim McClain, and second degree murder of Christene Mertens, for which he was sentenced to death. On direct appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence, and considered five claims: (1) whether Hedlund was deprived of his right to a fair trial through the use of dual juries; (2) whether the use of a visible leg restraint worn by Hedlund during trial deprived him of his right to a fair trial; (3) whether the refusal to dismiss a juror who was distantly related to one of the victims had denied Hedlund his right to a fair and impartial jury; (4) claims regarding the negotiation of a second plea deal; and (5) aggravating and mitigating factors. Hedlund filed for post-conviction relief, which was denied by the trial court. In August 2003, Hedlund petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus. The Ninth Circuit applied McKinney v. Ryan in analyzing the Arizona Supreme Court’s use of a “casual nexus” test, which forbids the court from giving weight to non-statutory mitigating evidence, unless the evidence was casually connected to the crime. The panel held that the state court’s decision was contrary to clearly established federal law, and decided through the harmless error standard on habeas review that the error had a “substantial and injurious” effect on Hedlund’s sentence and was therefore not harmless. The panel also held that the state court’s decision relating to claim (1) the use of a leg brace; (2) dual juries; (3) juror bias; and (4) counsel’s performance during the plea process and penalty phase, was not contrary to clearly established federal law, or based on unreasonable determined facts. REVERSED in part, AFFIRMED in part, and REMANDED.

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