533 U.S. 656 (2001), 00-5961, Tyler v. Cain

Docket Nº:No. 00-5961
Citation:533 U.S. 656, 121 S.Ct. 2478, 150 L.Ed.2d 632, 69 U.S.L.W. 4581, 69 U.S.L.W. 4620
Party Name:TYLER v. CAIN, WARDEN
Case Date:June 28, 2001
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 656

533 U.S. 656 (2001)

121 S.Ct. 2478, 150 L.Ed.2d 632, 69 U.S.L.W. 4581, 69 U.S.L.W. 4620

TYLER

v.

CAIN, WARDEN

No. 00-5961

United States Supreme Court

June 28, 2001

Argued April 16, 2001

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

After petitioner Tyler was convicted of second-degree murder and his conviction was affirmed on appeal, he filed five Louisiana state-court petitions for postconviction relief and a federal habeas petition, all of which were denied. After this Court decided Cage v. Louisiana, 498 U.S. 39—under which a jury instruction is unconstitutional if there is a reasonable likelihood that the jury understood it to allow conviction without proof beyond a reasonable doubt—Tyler filed a sixth state petition, claiming that a jury instruction in his trial was substantively identical to the one condemned in Cage. The State District Court denied relief, and the State Supreme Court affirmed. Seeking to pursue his Cage claim in federal court, Tyler moved the Fifth Circuit for permission to file a second habeas application, as required by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). The court granted the motion. The District Court then proceeded to the merits of Tyler's claim and denied relief. Although the Fifth Circuit affirmed, it stated that the District Court had erred by failing first to determine whether Tyler had satisfied AEDPA's successive habeas standard, which requires a district court to dismiss a claim in a second or successive application unless, as relevant here, the applicant "shows" that the "claim relies on a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable." 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(2)(A) (emphasis added). Relying on Circuit precedent, the court concluded that Tyler did not meet this standard.

Held:

The Cage rule was not "made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court," within the meaning of § 2244(b)(2)(A). Pp. 661-668.

(a) Based on § 2244(b)(2)(A)'s plain meaning when read as a whole, "made" means "held." Under the statute, this Court is the only entity that can "ma[k]e" a new rule retroactive. The new rule becomes retroactive, not by the decisions of the lower court or by the combined action of the Supreme Court and the lower courts, but simply by the action of the Supreme Court. The only way the Supreme Court can, by itself, lay out and construct a rule's retroactive effect is through a holding. This Court does not "ma[k]e" a rule retroactive when it merely establishes

Page 657

principles of retroactivity and leaves their application to lower courts. In such an event, the lower court (or perhaps a combination of courts), not the Supreme Court, develops any legal conclusion derived from those principles. Although the statute uses the word "made," not "held," Congress is permitted to use synonyms in a statute, see Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, and "made" and "held" are synonyms in the § 2244(b)(2)(A) context. This interpretation is necessary for the proper implementation of AEDPA's collateral review structure. The stringent 30-day time period that § 2244(b)(3)(D) imposes on courts of appeals determining whether an application "makes a prima facie showing that [it] satisfies the [second habeas standard]," § 2244(b)(3)(C), suggests that those courts do not have to engage in the difficult legal analysis that can be required to determine questions of retroactivity in the first instance, but need only rely on Supreme Court retroactivity holdings. Pp. 662-664.

(b) The Cage rule has not been "made retroactive . . . by the Supreme Court." Cage did not make itself retroactive, and neither did Sullivan v. Louisiana, 508 U.S. 275, 279. Tyler contends that Sullivan 's reasoning makes it clear that retroactive application of Cage is warranted by the principles of Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 311-313, in which the Court held that a new rule can be retroactive to cases on collateral review only if it falls within one of two narrow exceptions to the general rule of nonretroactivity. However, the most Tyler can claim is that, based on Teague 's principles, this Court should make Cage retroactive to cases on collateral review. It is clear, however, that the Court has not done so. Although the Court can make a rule retroactive over the course of two cases, it has not done so here. Pp. 664-667.

(c) This Court declines to make Cage retroactive today. Because Tyler's habeas application was his second, the District Court was required to dismiss it unless Tyler showed that this Court already had made Cage retroactive. This Court cannot decide today whether Cage is retroactive to cases on collateral review, because that decision will not help Tyler in this case. Any statement on Cage 's retroactivity would be dictum, so this Court declines to comment further on the issue. Pp. 667-668.

218 F.3d 744, affirmed.

Thomas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and O'Connor, Scalia, and Kennedy, JJ., joined. O'Connor, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 668. Breyer, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined, post, p. 670.

Page 658

Herbert V. Larson, Jr., argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs was Scott L. Nelson.

Charles E. F. Heuer argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Harry F. Connick and Val M. Solino.

James A. Feldman argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance. With him on the brief were Acting Solicitor General Underwood, Acting Assistant Attorney General Keeney, Deputy Solicitor General Dreeben, and Nina Goodman. [*]

Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court.

Under Cage v. Louisiana, 498 U.S. 39 (1990) (per curiam), a jury instruction is unconstitutional if there is a reasonable likelihood that the jury understood the instruction to allow conviction without proof beyond a reasonable doubt.[1] In

Page 659

this case, we must decide whether this rule was "made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court." 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(2)(A) (1994 ed., Supp. V). We hold that it was not.

I

During a fight with his estranged girlfriend in March 1975, petitioner Melvin Tyler shot and killed their 20-day-old daughter. A jury found Tyler guilty of second-degree murder, and his conviction was affirmed on appeal. After sentencing, Tyler assiduously sought postconviction relief. By 1986, he had filed five state petitions, all of which were denied. See State ex rel. Tyler v. Blackburn, 494 So.2d 1171 (La. 1986); State v. Tyler, 446 So.2d 1226 (La. 1984); State ex rel. Tyler v. State, 437 So.2d 1142 (La. 1983); State v. Tyler, 430 So.2d 92 (La. 1983); State ex rel. Tyler v. Maggio, 428 So.2d 483 (La. 1982). He next filed a federal habeas petition, which was unsuccessful as well. Tyler v. Butler, No. 88cv4929 (ED La.), aff'd, Tyler v. Whitley, 920 F.2d 929 (CA5 1990). After this Court's decision in Cage, Tyler continued his efforts. Because the jury instruction defining reasonable doubt at Tyler's trial was substantively identical to the instruction condemned in Cage, Tyler filed a sixth state postconviction petition, this time raising a Cage claim. The State District Court denied relief, and the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed. State ex rel. Tyler v. Cain, 684 So.2d 950 (1996).

In early 1997, Tyler returned to federal court. Seeking to pursue his Cage claim, Tyler moved the United States

Page 660

Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for permission to file a second habeas corpus application, as required by the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 110 Stat. 1214.[2] The Court of Appeals recognized that it could not grant the motion unless Tyler made "a prima facie showing," § 2244(b)(3)(C), that his "claim relies on a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable," § 2244(b)(2)(A). Finding that Tyler had made the requisite prima facie showing, the Court of Appeals granted the motion, thereby allowing Tyler to file a habeas petition in District Court.

The District Court proceeded to the merits of Tyler's claim and held that, although Cage should apply retroactively, App. 5-7 (citing Humphrey v. Cain, 138 F.3d 552 (CA5 1998) (en banc)), Tyler was not entitled to collateral relief. Under AEDPA, a state prisoner can prevail only if the state court's decision "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." § 2254(d)(1). Concluding that Tyler could not overcome this barrier, the District Court denied his petition.

The Court of Appeals affirmed. Judgt. order reported at 218 F.3d 744 (CA5 2000). It stated, however, that the District Court erred by failing first to determine whether Tyler "satisfied AEDPA's successive habeas standard." App. 15. AEDPA requires a district court to dismiss a claim in a second or successive application unless, as relevant here, the applicant "shows" that the "claim relies on a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable,"[3]

Page 661

§ 2244(b)(2)(A) (emphasis added); § 2244(b)(4). Relying on Circuit precedent, see Brown v. Lensing, 171 F.3d 1031 (CA5 1999); In re Smith, 142 F.3d 832 (CA5 1998), the Court of Appeals concluded that Tyler did not meet this standard because he "could not show that any Supreme Court decision renders the Cage decision retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review." App. 15.

The Courts of Appeals are divided on the question whether Cage was "made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court," as required by ...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP