Smith v. Swarthout

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 02-10-2014
  • Case #: 11-17116
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Alarcón for the Court; Circuit Judges Tallman and Ikuta.
  • Full Text Opinion

The court will properly deny a habeas corpus petition on appeal if the judgment was not contrary to clearly established federal law and was not based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding.

Konolus Smith was convicted on various charges related to domestic abuse. On habeas appeal, he alleged juror misconduct, bias, and a corporal injury. The California Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial of Smith’s habeas corpus petition. The California Supreme Court summarily denied the petition for review. Smith then filed a federal habeas corpus petition which the district court denied. The Ninth Circuit agreed to allow appeals on “(1) whether the trial court’s refusal to dismiss Juror No. 6, for cause, violated appellant’s constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury; and (2) whether any alleged juror misconduct during deliberations and/or irregularities in the trial court’s acceptance of final verdicts resulted in constitutional violations.” Habeas relief can only be granted if the state court proceeding (1) “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States,” or (2) “resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” The panel rejected Smith’s first argument because the state court’s determination was not unreasonable in finding Juror No. 6 impartial. Next, to determine whether or not the extrinsic evidence admittance was harmless the court reviews factors from Brecht: “(1) whether the material was actually received, and if so, how; (2) the length of time it was available to the jury; (3) the extent to which the juror discussed and considered it; (4) whether the material was introduced before a verdict was reached, and if so at what point in the deliberations; and (5) any other matters which may bear on the issue of the reasonable possibility of whether the extrinsic material affected the verdict.” Here, it was harmless error because the jurors reached a verdict before information was revealed. The panel affirmed the denial of the federal habeas corpus petition. AFFIRMED.

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