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Name: La Crosse v. Kernan
Case #: 97-55085
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 04/24/2000
Subsequent History: Opn. withdrawn by the Court on 9/8/00

In 1983, La Crosse was convicted of first-degree murder. In 1996, he filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Supreme Court raising the issue of his right to be present at a read-back of testimony to the jury, an issue he had not raised on direct appeal. The Supreme Court denied the petition on the merits and for lack of timeliness. The federal appellate court here reversed, because the grounds for denial were not independent of the federal question or adequate to support the judgment. In 1998 the California Supreme Court clarified that in the future, for purposes of applying the “error of constitutional magnitude” exception to untimely or successive habeas petitions, it would not decide whether the alleged error actually constituted a federal constitutional violation. Since the 1996 denial of the habeas petition was not based on an independent and adequate state law ground, it could not act as a bar to federal review. The case therefore had to be remanded to the district court to determine whether an evidentiary hearing should be held in this matter, and if so, to conduct such proceedings to determine whether the failure to have La Crosse present at the read-back had a bearing on the jury’s verdict.