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Fry v. Pliler

Docket No.: 06-5247
Certiorari Granted: Dec 7 2006
Argued: March 20, 2007
Decided: June 11, 2007

Topics:

capital murder, habeas, habeas corpus, harmless-error, murder, prejudicial impact of constitutional error

PartyNames: John Francis Fry v. Cheryl K. Pliler, Warden
Petitioner: John Francis Fry
Respondent: Cheryl K. Pliler, Warden

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

John Francis Fry
v.
Cheryl K. Pliler, Warden
551 U.S. 112 (2007)
Consideration Limited:

LIMITED TO QUESTION 3 PRESENTED BY THE PETITION.

Question Presented:

1. Can a trial court's unconstitutional exclusion of reliable evidence of third party guilt be deemed harmless error? 2. This Court's decisions in Holmes v. South Carolina __U.S.___, 164 L.Ed.2d 503, 126 S.Ct. 1727 (2006), and House v. Bell, __U.S.__, 2006 U.S. Lexis 4675 (2006), were handed down after the decision of the Ninth Circuit below. Should this Court issue a GVR order in this case, directing the Ninth Circuit to reconsider its decision that the unconstitutional exclusion of reliable evidence of third party guilt can be harmless, in light of Holmes and House? 3. If constitutional error in a state trial is not recognized by the judiciary until the case ends up in federal court under 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254, is the prejudicial impact of the error assessed under the standard set forth in Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18 (1967), or that enunciated in Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619 (1993)? Does it matter which harmless error standard is employed? And, if the Brecht standard applies, does the petitioner or the State bear the burden of persuasion on the question of prejudice?

Question:

1) What standard for determining harmless error applies to habeas cases where the constitutional error is not recognized until the case is appealed to federal court? 2) If the Brecht standard applies, does the defense or the prosecution bear the burden of persuasion on the question of injurious influence?

Holding: affirmed
Vote: 5-4
Opinion By:
Read FRY V. PLILER opinion (PDF)
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