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Panel Denies Death Row Inmate’s Habeas Request

Publication Date: 
March 08, 2013
Daily Journal
John Roemer

Professor Robert Weisberg spoke with the Daily Journal's John Roemer on the denial of a death row inmate's habeas corpus request by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and why the case "may be at least a small datum suggesting a change."

Aman who has been on San Quentin's death row since 1980 will stay there after a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel voted Thursday to deny him habeas corpus relief, reversing an Oakland district judge. A defense lawyer's failure to object to a knee restraint the 19-year-old defendant was forced to wear under his pants at trial - which jurors noticed because it made him limp in court - did not outweigh other factors that supported the conviction, the panel held.

The panel overruled U.S. District Judge Saundra B. Armstrong and sent the case of inmate Marvin Pete Walker back to her for consideration of mitigating claims that were held in abeyance pending the appeal. Walker v. Martel, 2013 DJDAR 2943. It was another chapter in the circuit's struggle with habeas appeals following a 2010 term in which the U.S.Supreme Court reversed six 9th Circuit decisions under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Five of the reversals that term were unanimous, a telling signal of high court disapproval.


So has the circuit stopped bucking the high court in habeas cases? Robert Weisberg, the co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, said that "earlier 9th Circuit cases have been less deferential to state courts on prejudice and harmless error issues ... so this case may be at least a small datum suggesting a change."