The Supreme Court overturns a federal appeals court decision ordering a Michigan state court to retry or release a convicted murderer because his rights were violated by being shackled during his trial.
The 6-3 decision said the appellate justices should have applied two different tests to decide if a release or retrial was indicated. according The Associated Press.
A state court had agreed the shackles violated Ervine Davenport’s rights but it did not affect his jury trial. The federal appeals court overturned that decision.
Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the Supreme Court majority opinion. It said, “When a state court has ruled on the merits of a state prisoner’s claim, a federal court cannot grant relief without first applying both” tests. Those tests are whether the defendant’s rights were violated, and whether that affected the jurors’ decision.
The ruling said Davenport’s rights were violated, but that did not affect the decision.
That reasoning was based on a law passed by Congress in 1996, the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.
The dissenting response from Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, also representing the other two liberal justices, wrote, requiring both tests were “make-work” and the court had twice in recent years had said requiring the 1993 test alone is sufficient because it is “harder for a prisoner to meet.” She added requiring both tests is a “pointless demand.”
The federal appeals court had said the restraints “branded Davenport as having a violent nature” and were inherently prejudicial. So it ordered Michigan to retry or release him. The Supreme Court reversed that decision.
The case is Brown, Acting Warden vs. Davenport, 20-826.