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Name: Thompson v. Runnels
Case #: 08-16186
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 01/24/2013

“Clearly established federal law” is assessed as of the time of the final state court adjudication on the merits. Thus, defendant’s inculpatory post-Miranda statements were admissible in the absence of police coercion. Using a “two-step” interrogation procedure whereby Miranda warnings were withheld until after an initial confession was given, police obtained defendant’s confession to a murder. In the state Supreme Court defendant relied on the then recent decision in Missouri v. Seibert (2004) 542 U.S. 600, in which five justices agreed that when such a “two-step” interrogation procedure is used, post-Miranda statements that relate to the prewarning statements must be excluded unless the Miranda warning would apprise a reasonable person of his rights. After the state Supreme Court denied his petition for review, defendant did not seek certiorari or file a petition for writ of habeas corpus. His habeas petition in the Ninth Circuit was initially granted based on his Seibert claim. The state’s certiorari petition was granted and the matter remanded in light of Greene v. Fisher (2011) 132 S.Ct. 38. Held: Relief denied. In Greene the court held that “clearly established Federal law” does not include Supreme Court decisions that are announced after the last adjudication of the defendant’s claim on the merits in the state court, but before the defendant’s conviction is final. At the time the state Court of Appeal rendered its decision, Oregon v. Elstad (1985) 470 U.S. 298, was the established precedent. Under Elstad, voluntary, post-Miranda statements following an earlier unwarned statement, are not inadmissible in the absence of police coercion. Under this standard, the state court properly denied defendant’s Miranda motion.