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Williams v. Taylor

Supreme Court of the United States

October 4, 1999, Argued ; April 18, 2000, Decided

No. 98-8384

Case Summary

Procedural Posture

Petitioner sought a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which reversed a determination on federal habeas corpus review that petitioner's death sentence was constitutionally infirm.

Overview

Petitioner admitted to killing a person. A jury found a probability of future dangerousness and unanimously fixed petitioner's punishment at death. In petitioner's state habeas corpus proceedings alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, the state circuit court recommended a rehearing on the sentencing phase of petitioner's trial. The state supreme court did not accept that recommendation, determining that the omitted evidence would not have affected the jury's sentencing recommendation. Petitioner sought a federal writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.S. § 2254. The Court reversed the judgment of the federal appellate court, which determined that petitioner's death sentence was not constitutionally infirm. The Court determined that petitioner's constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel was violated and that the state supreme court's decision refusing to set aside petitioner's death sentence was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law within the meaning of 28 U.S.C.S. § 2254(d)(1).

Outcome

Judgment was reversed because petitioner's constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel was violated and the state supreme court analyzed the ineffective-assistance claim under the incorrect standard.

LexisNexis® Headnotes

 

 

Criminal Law & Procedure > ... > Review > Standards of Review > General Overview

HN1  Review, Standards of Review

Federal courts shall have power to grant writs of habeas corpus in all cases where any person may be restrained of his or her liberty in violation of the constitution, or of any treaty or law of the United States. Act of Feb. 5, 1867, ch. 28, § 1, 14 Stat. 385.

 

Criminal Law & Procedure > Counsel > Right to Counsel > General Overview

Criminal Law & Procedure > ... > Review > Standards of Review > General Overview

HN2  Counsel, Right to Counsel

It is well settled that the fact that constitutional error occurred in the proceedings that led to a state-court conviction may not alone be sufficient reason for concluding that a prisoner is entitled to the remedy of habeas. On the other hand, errors that undermine confidence in the fundamental fairness of the state adjudication certainly justify the issuance of the federal writ. The deprivation of the right to the effective assistance of counsel is such an error.

 

Criminal Law & Procedure > ... > Jurisdiction > Custody Requirement > General Overview

HN3  Jurisdiction, Custody Requirement

See 28 U.S.C.S. § 2241(c)(3).

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529 U.S. 362 ; 120 S. Ct. 1495 ; 146 L. Ed. 2d 389 ; 2000 U.S. LEXIS 2837 ; 68 U.S.L.W. 4263; 2000 Cal. Daily Op. Service 2945; 2000 Daily Journal DAR 3949; 13 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 225

TERRY WILLIAMS v. JOHN TAYLOR, WARDEN

Prior History:  [1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT.

Disposition: 163 F.3d 860, reversed and remanded.