Habeas Corpus Definition Of Made Retroactive Under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(2)(A)
Case: Tyler v. Cain
Issue: Whether the rule set forth in Cage v.Louisiana, 498 U.S. 39 (1990), that a jury instruction isunconstitutional if there is a reasonable likelihood that the juryunderstood the instruction to allow conviction without proof beyonda reasonable doubt was ever made retroactive by the UnitedStates Supreme Court, within the meaning of 28 U.S.C.§ 2244(b)(2)(A), to cases on collateral review.
Facts: The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Actof 1996 (AEDPA) greatly restricts the power of federal courts toaward relief to state prisoners who file second or successivehabeas corpus applications. If a state prisoner asserts a claimthat he has already presented in an earlier federal habeaspetition, the United States District Court must dismiss thepetition. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(1). If the second petitionasserts a claim that was not previously presented, the claim mustbe dismissed unless: the claim is predicated on newlydiscovered evidence that clearly establishes the prisonersinnocence [28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(2)(B)]; or the claim relies ona new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases oncollateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previouslyunavailable. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(2)(A). A Louisiana statejury found Tyler guilty of second-degree murder and his convictionwas affirmed on appeal. After filing five unsuccessful petitionsfor state post-conviction relief, Tyler filed a habeas petition inUnited States District Court. That petition was also unsuccessful.Following these events, the United States Supreme Court decidedCage v. Louisiana. In Cage, the Court held that ajury instruction is unconstitutional if there is a reasonablelikelihood that the jury understood the instruction to allowconviction without proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Because thejury instruction given in his original trial was substantivelyidentical to the one condemned in Cage, Tyler filed a sixthpetition for state post-conviction relief raising a Cageclaim. The state district court denied relief and the LouisianaSupreme Court affirmed. In 1997, the United States Court of Appealsfor the Fifth Circuit granted Tyler permission to file a secondfederal habeas petition in accordance with the requirements setforth in § 2244(b)(3)(C). Under § 2244(b)(3)(C), in orderto gain permission to even file a second habeas petition,Tyler had to make a prima facie showing that his Cageclaim satisfied the requirements of § 2244(b)(2)(A), that is,that it relied upon a new rule of constitutional law, maderetroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court,that was previously unavailable. Finding that Tyler had made sucha prima facie showing, the Fifth Circuit gave him permission tofile another habeas petition in United States District Court. TheUnited States District Court proceeded to the merits ofTylers claim, agreeing that Cage appliedretroactively, but denied relief under a separate portion of theAEDPA, § 2254(d)(1), because Tylers claim had beenadjudicated on the merits in state court and Tyler could not showthat the state courts decision was contrary to, or involvedan unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, asdetermined by the Supreme Court of the United States. The FifthCircuit affirmed the result. It held, however, that the DistrictCourt erred in failing as an initial matter to determine whetherTylers second federal habeas petition satisfied thesuccessive habeas standard of § 2244(b)(2)(A). In other words,although Tyler made the prima facie showing necessary tofile his second federal habeas petition, once he filed thatpetition he was required, in order to avoid dismissal, toactually show that he met the requirements set forthin § 2244(b)(2)(A). Because Tyler could not meet the requisitestandard, the Fifth Circuit concluded that the District Courtshould have dismissed the petition on this ground. Tyler could notmeet the standard because, according to the Fifth Circuit, hecould not show that any Supreme Court decision renders theCage decision retroactively applicable to cases oncollateral review.
Holding: Based on the plain meaning of the text [of§ 2244(b)(2)(A)] read as a whole, we conclude thatmade means held and, thus, the [statutory]requirement is satisfied only if the Court has held that the newrule is retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.Since the United States Supreme Court never made Cageretroactive to cases on collateral review, the United StatesDistrict Court was required to dismiss Tylers second habeasapplication.
Reasoning: The Court, through Justice Thomas, noted thatmade has many meanings, [including to lay out and construct andto cause to exist, occur or appear] none of which is entirelyfree from ambiguity. Statutory terms, however, are interpreted inthe context of an overall statutory scheme. Under §2244(b)(2)(A), the Supreme Court is the only entity that canma[k]e a new constitutional rule retroactive. The only way theSupreme Court can lay out and construct a rulesretroactive effect, or cause that effect toexist, occur, or appear, is through a holding. The fact thatUnited States Circuit Courts have only 30 days under the AEDPA[§ 2244(B)(3)(C)] in which to determine whetherapplicants such as Tyler have made their prima facie showingsfurther supports the Courts interpretation of§ 2244(b)(2)(A). It is unlikely that a court of appealscould make such a determination in the allotted time if it had todo more than simply rely on Supreme Court holdings onretroactivity.
Because the Court has not expressly held that theCage rule applies retroactively, Tyler cannot make thenecessary showing under § 2244(b)(2)(A). Contrary toTylers assertion, the reasoning underlying decisions in otherSupreme Court cases cannot accomplish this objective. Although theCourt can make a rule retroactive over the course of more than onecase, it has never done so with regard to Cage. Tyler hadargued that, over the course of two cases, Teague v. Lane,489 U.S. 288 (1989), and Sullivan v. Louisiana, 508 U.S. 275(1993), the Court made the Cage rule retroactive. InTeague, the Court held that a new rule is appliedretroactively to cases on collateral review if, and only if, itfalls within one of two narrow exceptions to the general rule ofnon-retroactivity. The exception relevant in Tyler's case was forwatershed rules of criminal procedure implicating the fundamentalfairness and accuracy of the criminal proceeding. To fall withinthe watershed exception a new rule must seriously diminish thelikelihood of obtaining an accurate conviction and alterour understanding of the bedrock procedural elements essential tothe fairness of a proceeding. Tyler noted that in Sullivanthe Court determined that a violation of the Cage ruleundermines the reliability of a trials outcome and deprivesthe defendant of having the jury make the bedrock determination forguilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Finding this argumentunpersuasive, however, the Court concluded that, the most [Tyler]can claim is that, based on the principles outlined inTeague, this Court should make Cageretroactive. Moreover, making the Cage rule retroactive inTylers case could not change the ultimate disposition ofTylers claim. Because Tylers habeas application washis second, the District Court was required to dismiss it unlessTyler showed that this Court already had made Cageretroactive. Tyler could not do this and, therefore, his petitionshould have been dismissed.
Other Opinions: Concurring with the majority, JusticeOConnor stressed that, when relying upon multiple cases, theholdings must dictate the conclusion and not merely provideprinciples from which one may conclude that the rule appliesretroactively. Toward this end, reliance upon Court dicta orapplication of principles established by the Court as applied bylower tribunals could not be accepted.
Justice Breyer, joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, andGinsberg, dissented from the majoritys ruling. Justice Breyerfound that the Court made the Cage rule retroactivethrough its disposition of Teague and Sullivan.First, in Teague, the Court held that a new rule appliesretroactively where (1) infringement of the new rule willseriously diminish the likelihood of obtaining an accurateconviction, and (2) the new rule alters our understanding of thebedrock procedural elements that must be found to vitiate [sic] thefairness of a particular conviction. Second, in Sullivan,the Court concluded that a violation of the Cage rule couldnever constitute harmless error. Instead, an instruction violativeof the Cage rule vitiates all the jurys findings anddeprives a criminal defendant of a basic protection . . . withoutwhich a criminal trial cannot reliably serve its function. Thecombined effect of the Courts reasoning in these two casesclearly made the Cage rule retroactive. That is becausean instruction that makes all the jurysfindings untrustworthy, Sullivan, supra, at 281, 113S.Ct. 2078, must diminish the likelihood of obtaining anaccurate conviction, Teague, supra, at 315, 109 S.Ct.1060 (plurality opinion). To Breyer, [t]he matter is one oflogic. If Case One holds that all men are mortal and Case Two holdsthat Socrates is a man, we do not need Case Three to hold thatSocrates is mortal.
Justice Breyer also thought that the majoritys conclusionwas inconsistent with the purpose of § 2244(b)(2)(A).Congress, through the statute, sought to bar multiple petitions inlower courts based upon precedents established by tribunals otherthan the Supreme Court. Here, consistent with such a purpose, theSupreme Court has previously spoken. Justice Breyer noted that thelikely consequence of the majority opinion will be furtherprocedural complexity, since the situations in which Cagecan be made retroactive are limited.
Comment: This ruling is consistent with the Courtsgenerally strict reading of the procedural requirements in federalhabeas corpus statutes.