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An up-to-date outline of Supreme Court criminal cases
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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Handcuff Detention OK While Executing Search Warrant

In Muehler v. Mena, No. 03-1423 (March 22, 2005), the Supreme Court held that the detention in handcuffs of an occupant of premises which were being search for weapons and evidence of gang membership did not violate the Fourth Amendment and therefore could not give rise to a suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The Court noted that under Michigan v. Summers, police has the authority to detain occupants of premises while a proper search is being conducted. The use of force in the form of handcuffs to detain Mena was reasonable here because the governmental interest in minimizing the risk of harm to both officers and occupants, at its maximum when a warrant authorizes a search for weapons and a wanted gang member resides on the premises, outweighs the marginal intrusion.
The Court also found no Fourth Amendment violation in the questioning of Mesa about her immigration status. Mere police questioning does not constitute a "seizure."
The Court remanded the case for consideration of Mesa’s argument that the length of her detention violated the Fourth Amendment.

Deference to State Court Under AEDPA

In Brown v. Payton, No. 03-1029 (March 22, 2005), the Supreme Court held that, under the deferential AEDPA standard for federal review of state decisions, the California Supreme Court did not render a decision contrary to, or unreasonably applying, federal law, when it declined to find a constitutional violation in the prosecutor’s incorrect statement in closing argument in the death phase of the trial that a jury could not take account in mitigation of anything that happened after the crime, i.e, the defendant’s post-offense rehabilitation. The trial court gave a standard § (k) instruction that "any other" extenuating factor could be considered.The Court noted that in Boyde v. California, it had upheld the § k instruction, and that the California Supreme Court had relied on Boyde in affirming the defendant’s sentence. The found that the California Supreme Court had applied Boyde to a different set of facts and could not therefore, under AEDPA, be found to be contrary to established federal law.