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Monday, December 11, 2006

Carey v. Musladin: Absence of Clear Binding Precedent to Allow Habeas

Carey v. Musladin, 127 S. Ct. 649 (2006). Federal court granted habeas relief in a state first degree murder case because the courtroom spectators included three family members of the victim who wore buttons depicting the deceased family of murder victim. State courts had denied relief on this ground, but the Ninth Circuit concluded that the state court determination was contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Ninth Circuit exceeded its authority under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), because there is no Supreme Court precedent clearly establishing that an unfair trial occurs, or habeas should be granted, when spectators wear such buttons.