Mike Brown v. Ervine Davenport

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: April 5, 2021
  • Case #: 20-826
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Davenport v. MacLaren, 975 F.3d 537 (6th Cir. 2020)
  • Full Text Opinion

May a federal habeas court grant relief based solely on its conclusion that the Brecht test is satisfied, as the Sixth Circuit held, or must the court also find that the state court’s Chapman application was unreasonable under § 2254(d)(1), as the Second, Third, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits have held?

Mike Brown, Petitioner, is the Acting Warden where Ervine Davenport, Respondent, is currently held in custody. Respondent was convicted of premeditated murder. On appeal, Respondent claimed that he was unconstitutionally shackled at trial.  Michigan courts were in agreement that shackling Respondent constituted harmless error as there was sufficient evidence from the jurors to support it did not impact the verdict. Respondent filed for habeas relief in the federal district court. The Sixth Circuit found the error to have caused harm, and granted the relief request. In their holding the majority applied only the test set forth in Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619 (1993), restricting the state court’s application of a general harmless-error standard while extending Supreme Court prohibitions. The stated petitioned for review after the Sixth Circuit denied request for rehearing.  First, Petitioner argues that by solely using the standard from Brecht for their analysis the Sixth Circuit was at odds with the AEDPA and Davis v. Ayala, 576 U.S. 257 (2015). Therefore, there must be a “deferential review of a state court’s harmless-error determination.” Second, Petitioner argues the court should reconcile the divide among circuits as five circuits have decided this issue differently. Petition Granted.

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