In Lewis v. Andes, the Ninth Circuit today affirmed a district court denial of a death row inmate’s habeas corpus petition. The California Supreme Court had upheld the death sentence in People v. Lewis (2001) 26 Cal.4th 334 for a 1988 murder.

Among other things, the petition claimed the superior court had improperly admitted during the capital trial’s penalty phase evidence of a murder Lewis had committed and confessed to when he was 13 years old, over a dozen years before the murder for which he received the death sentence at issue. The Supreme Court held the “confession was voluntary and followed a knowing and intelligent waiver of [the defendant’s] Miranda rights.” (26 Cal.4th at p. 384.) The Ninth Circuit, applying the highly deferential standard of review required by the federal Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, concluded the Supreme Court’s ruling “was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of federal law, [and] was not based on unreasonable factual determinations.”

The Ninth Circuit usually, but not always, refuses to overturn Supreme Court death penalty affirmances.


“From the bench, an ‘impotent silence’ ”