White v. Woodall

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: June 27, 2013
  • Case #: 12-794
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court Below: 685 F.3d 574 (6th Cir. 2012)
  • Full Text Opinion

(1) Whether the trial court's failure to include a no adverse inference instruction to the jury is grounds for Habeas Corpus relief; and (2) whether such error is harmless under Brecht v Abrahamson.

Respondent plead guilty to kidnapping, rape, and murder. At sentencing, Respondent did not testify and the jury was not instructed that no adverse inference can be drawn from the Respondent's failure to testify. The jury sentenced Respondent to death.

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit granted Habeas relief. The court held that a failure to instruct the jury that no adverse inference can be drawn from the Respondent's failure to testify was a violation of his Fifth Amendment rights and such a failure satisfied the harmless error standard in Brecht v. Abrahamson.

Petitioner argues that no error occured during the trial because the facts and circumstances of the case were resolved when Respondent plead guilty to all charges. Subsequently, if there was a violation of the Respondent's Fifth Amendment rights, such a violation is harmless when it occurs at the sentencing phase of the trial. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide (1) whether the trial court's failure to include a no adverse inference instruction to the jury is grounds for Habeas Corpus relief; and (2) whether such error is harmless under Brecht v Abrahamson.

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