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Smith v. Spisak

Docket No.: 08-724
Certiorari Granted: Feb 23 2009
Argued: October 13, 2009
Decided: January 20, 2010

PartyNames: Keith Smith, Warden v. Frank G. Spisak, Jr.
Petitioner: Kevin Smith, Warden
Respondent: Frank G. Spisak, Jr.

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

Kevin Smith, Warden
v.
Frank G. Spisak, Jr.
Question Presented:

1. Did the Sixth Circuit contravene the directives of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") and Carey v. Musladin, 127 S. Ct. 649 (2006), when it applied Mills v. Maryland, 486 U.S. 367 (1988), to resolve in a habeas petitioner's favor questions that were not decided or addressed in Mills? 2. Did the Sixth Circuit exceed its authority under AEDPA when it applied United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648 (1984), to presume that a habeas petitioner suffered prejudice from several allegedly deficient statements made by his trial counsel during closing argument instead of deferring to the Ohio Supreme Court's reasonable rejection of the claim under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984)?

Question:

1) Did the Sixth Circuit disobey the directives of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Supreme Court's decision in Musladin when it resolved questions in Mr. Spisak's favor that were not decided in Musladin? 2) Did the Sixth Circuit exceed its authority when it presumed that Mr. Spisak suffered prejudice by allegedly deficient statements made by his counsel at sentencing and ignored the Ohio Supreme Court's standard for prejudice?

Holding: reversed
Vote: 9-0
Read SMITH V. SPISAK opinion (PDF)
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