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Name: Early v. Packer
Case #: 01-1765
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 11/04/2002
Subsequent History: 1/13/03 Rehrg. den.; cross-cites: 123 S.Ct. 362; 154 L.Ed.2d 263
Summary

The high court concluded a petitioner claiming that the state trial judge coerced the jury’s verdict was not entitled to relief under the limits imposed on federal habeas review by 28 U.S.C. sec. 2254(d) (AEDPA). After 28 hours of deliberation and reaching sealed verdicts on all counts except murder and attempted murder, Juror R. asked the trial court to dismiss her for health reasons, because due to the seriousness of the charges, she was beginning to feel “burned out.” The court persuaded her to stay just a little bit longer. The next day, the foreman complained Juror R. did not seem to be able to understand the rules as given by the court. Further inquiry revealed the jury was split 11-1; the court also observed a juror had a right to disagree, but not a right to not deliberate. The court instructed that the jury should apply the facts to the law and arrive at a decision, among other paraphrased CALJIC instructions concerning reasonable doubt and elements of the offenses. The defense objected, and the court further instructed the jury that they were the sole judges of the facts, but they must follow the law as given by the court; the jury could not make up its own law. The court gave them the rest of the day off, and on the next day, a Friday, Juror R. complained she was being disrespected by the other jurors and had reached a point of anger. The judge consulted the foreman, who said Juror R. was continuing to deliberate. The following Tuesday, the jury reached guilty verdicts. The high court concluded that the trial court’s actions were not “contrary to” clearly established U.S. Supreme Court precedent. The court criticized the intervening decision of the Ninth Circuit. That opinion used the wrong standard of review (a more lax “failed to apply” clearly established Supreme Court law standard). The Ninth Circuit also erred in concluding that standard was not met simply because the state appellate opinion failed to cite any federal law. There is no requirement that federal law be cited in the state court opinion in order to comply, so long as neither the reasoning nor the result of the cited authorities contradict applicable federal law. The Ninth Circuit erred in its assessment of the state court opinion as failing to consider the totality of the circumstances as required by Lowenfield v. Phelps (1988) 484 U.S. 23. Finally, the Ninth Circuit mistakenly faulted the state court for urging the jury to reach a decision as long as the language used does not coerce a particular type of verdict. This is permissible, and the authority relied on by the Ninth Circuit to conclude otherwise does not apply in federal habeas proceedings as “clearly established” applicable precedent.