Finding “the California Supreme Court failed to reasonably apply clearly established federal law” regarding a condemned inmate’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim, the Ninth Circuit in Noguera v. Davis yesterday affirmed habeas corpus relief vacating a death sentence imposed for a murder committed 38 years ago.  However, with one judge dissenting, the appeals court reversed the district court ruling that would have also vacated the inmate’s conviction.

The Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence (People v. Noguera (1992) 4 Cal.4th 599) and denied four state habeas corpus petitions without opinion, most recently in 2007 (here, here, here, and here).  Justices Stanley Mosk, Joyce Kennard, and Marvin Baxter dissented from the first petition’s denial.  Just two years ago, the court transferred a fifth state habeas petition to the superior court under Proposition 66 (see here and here).

The Ninth Circuit usually, but, like yesterday, not always, refuses to overturn California Supreme Court death penalty decisions.


“From the bench, an ‘impotent silence’.”