Greene v. Fisher

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: November 8, 2011
  • Case #: No. 10-637
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Scalia, J. for the Unanimous Court
  • Full Text Opinion

(For the purpose of adjudicating a state prisoner’s petition for federal habeas relief, the temporal cutoff for whether a decision from the Supreme Court qualifies as “clearly established Federal law” is the time of the relevant state-court adjudication on the merits.)

Eric Greene was convicted of second-degree murder, robbery, and conspiracy. Greene appealed his conviction arguing that severance of his trial was required by Bruton v. US. The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed Greene’s conviction holding that redaction cured any problem under Bruton. While Greene’s petition for allowance to appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was pending, the Supreme Court decided Gray v. Maryland. In Gray, the Court held that redactions that replace a proper name with an obvious blank, the word “delete,” a symbol, or similarly notify the jury that a name has been deleted are similar enough to Bruton’s unredacted confession as to warrant the same legal result. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted the petition for allowance of appeal but later dismissed the appeal as improvidently granted. Greene then filed a federal habeas petition in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania alleging that the introduction of his non-testifying codefendant’s statements violated the Confrontation Clause. On the report and recommendation of a Magistrate Judge, the District Court dismissed the petition concluding that Gray was not “clearly established Federal law” under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed.

The Supreme Court held that “clearly established Federal law” includes the Court’s decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court adjudications on the merits. In this case, because the Pennsylvania Superior Court’s decision on the merits predated Gray by nearly three months it could not be held to be “clearly established Federal law” against which the state-courts decision could be measured. The Court thus, affirmed the Third Circuit's decision.

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