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Name: Nevada v. Jackson
Case #: 12-694
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 06/03/2013
Subsequent History: 133 S.Ct. 1990; 186 L.Ed.2d 62

State court did not unreasonably apply U.S. Supreme Court precedent addressing a defendant’s right to present a defense by holding that extrinsic evidence of specific instances of a witness’ conduct offered to challenge her credibility was properly excluded. Jackson was convicted in state court of rape and other offenses committed against his girlfriend. At trial, he unsuccessfully tried to introduce evidence that his girlfriend had previously made assault allegations against him which were unsubstantiated, to show the current charges were fabricated. The state courts affirmed his conviction. The Ninth Circuit reversed in habeas proceedings, finding exclusion of the evidence violated Jackson’s right to present a defense. Held: Reversed. The Constitution guarantees a defendant a right to present a defense. However, state courts have wide latitude to establish rules regarding the admission of evidence. Here, the Nevada statute generally precludes extrinsic evidence of specific instances of a witness’ prior conduct to challenge or support the witness’ credibility. In sexual assault cases, the rule allows defense counsel to cross-examine the complainant about prior fabricated assaults. If the complainant denies such fabrication, upon written notice, evidence of prior conduct may be introduced to show that the witness previously fabricated charges. Here, trial defense counsel did not file the requisite notice. Under AEDPA’s deferential standard, the Nevada Supreme Court’s decision was reasonable. No prior decision of the Supreme Court clearly establishes that such a notice requirement is unconstitutional or that a case-by-case balancing of interests is required. Nor has precedent held that the confrontation clause requires admission of extrinsic evidence for impeachment purposes.