Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Taylor v. Sisto, 606 F.3d 622 (9th Cir. 2010)

The trial judge in a state court explained the role of the jury to prospective jurors by warning them to put their personal experiences aside to avoid the potential of bias or prejudice. Counsel for the defendant did not object to this pre trial comment. The California Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction and dismissed the objection to improperly instructing jurors as harmless. On habeas corpus in U.S. District Court, the judge agreed and denied the petition. Apparently the Ninth Circuit panel thought this instruction to jurors so prejudicial it reversed the jury verdict of guilt. Aside from this incredulous result, the panel completely avoided AEDPA and simply cited inapplicable Supreme Court cases. Not a single case applied to these facts. The 2-1 majority cited cases where blacks and women were excluded from jurors. No one was excluded in Taylor's case on those grounds. This decision is another example of an inexperienced panel of judges who never tried a criminal case. Here is the dissent (citations deleted):

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