Tara Sheneva Williams agreed to drive Carde Taylor and Schantel W. around so they could case stores for a potential robbery that was to take place later that night. One store they visited was a liquor store, which Taylore and Schantel entered while Ms. Williams waited in the car. The two emerged a few seconds later, but then Taylor went back in, pointed a gun at the proprietor and, in the course of emptying the cash register, shot and killed him. Taylor and Williams eventually admitted to being present and confirmed that Taylor had killed the owner. Ms. Williams told the police that, while she knew Taylor was armed, there had never been a plan to rob the store during daylight hours.
Taylor and Williams were each charged with special-circumstances murder and a firearm enhancement; they were tried separately. After a five-day jury trial, Williams was found guilty of specialcircumstances murder and the firearm enhancement, resulting in a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
Williams conviction, however, followed the mid-trial dismissal of a known holdout juror, who was replaced with an alternate. That dismissal forms the basis for habeas relief.
LIMITED TO QUESTION 1 PRESENTED BY THE PETITION.Question Presented:
1. Whether a habeas petitioner's claim has been "adjudicated on the merits" for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) where the state court denied relief in an explained decision but did not expressly acknowledge a federal-law basis for the claim. 2. Whether, under § 2254, a federal habeas court (a) may grant relief on the ground that the petitioner had a Sixth Amendment right to retain a biased juror on the panel and (b) may reject a state court's finding of juror bias because it disagrees with the finding and the reasons stated for it, even where the finding was rationally supported by evidence in the state-court record.