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Uttecht v. Brown

Docket No.: 06-413
Certiorari Granted: Jan 12 2007
Argued: April 17, 2007
Decided: June 4, 2007

Topics:

Fourteenth Amendment, Death Penalty, habeas, murder, Union

PartyNames: Jeffrey Uttecht, Superintendent, Washington State Penitentiary v. Cal Coburn Brown
Petitioner: Jeffrey Uttecht, Superintendent, Washington State Penitentiary
Respondent: Cal Coburn Brown

Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Jeffrey Uttecht, Superintendent, Washington State Penitentiary
v.
Cal Coburn Brown
551 U.S. 1 (2007)
Question Presented:

In Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U.S. 412 (1985), and Darden v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 168 (1986), this Court held that a state trial judge may, without setting forth any explicit findings or conclusions, remove a juror for cause when the judge determines the juror's views on the death penalty would substantially impair his or her ability to follow the law and perform the duties of a juror. The Court further held that a federal habeas court reviewing the decision to remove the juror must defer to the trial judge's ability to observe the juror's demeanor and credibility, and apply the statutory presumption of correctness to the judge's implicit factual determination of the juror's substantial impairment. Did the Ninth Circuit err by not deferring to the trial judge's observations and by not applying the statutory presumption of correctness in ruling that the state court decision to remove a juror was contrary to clearly established federal law?

Question:

Did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit fail to give proper deference to a trial judge's dismissal of a juror on the grounds that he could not carry out the duties of a juror in a capital sentencing case?

Holding: judgment reversed and remanded
Vote: 5-4
Opinion By:
Read UTTECHT V. BROWN opinion (PDF)
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