542 U.S. 406 (2004), 02-1603, Beard v. Banks

Docket Nº:No. 02-1603
Citation:542 U.S. 406, 124 S.Ct. 2504, 159 L.Ed.2d 494, 72 U.S.L.W. 4578
Case Date:June 24, 2004
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 406

542 U.S. 406 (2004)

124 S.Ct. 2504, 159 L.Ed.2d 494, 72 U.S.L.W. 4578




No. 02-1603

United States Supreme Court

June 24, 2004

Argued February 24, 2004.


[124 S.Ct. 2506] Syllabus [*] After respondent's murder conviction and death sentence were upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, this Court decided Mills v. Maryland, 486 U.S. 367, 108 S.Ct. 1860, 100 L.Ed.2d 384, and McKoy v. North Carolina, 494 U.S. 433, 110 S.Ct. 1227, 108 L.Ed.2d 369, in which it held invalid capital sentencing schemes requiring juries to disregard mitigating factors not found unanimously. After respondent's state postconviction Mills claim was rejected by the State Supreme Court on the merits, he turned to the federal courts. Ultimately, the Third Circuit applied the analytical framework set forth in Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 109 S.Ct. 1060, 103 L.Ed.2d 334, under which federal habeas petitioners may not avail themselves of new rules of constitutional criminal procedure outside two narrow exceptions; concluded that Mills did not announce a new rule and therefore could be applied retroactively; and granted respondent relief.


Because Mills announced a new rule of constitutional criminal procedure[124 S.Ct. 2507] that does not fall within either Teague exception, its rule cannot be applied retroactively. Pp. 2510-2515.

(a) Teague analysis involves a three-step process requiring a court to determine when a defendant's conviction became final; whether, given the legal landscape at the time the conviction became final, the rule sought to be applied is actually new; and, if so, whether it falls within either of two exceptions to nonretroactivity. P. 2510.

(b) Respondent's conviction became final before Mills was decided. The normal rule for determining a state conviction's finality for retroactivity review--when the availability of direct appeal to the state courts has been exhausted and the time for filing a certiorari petition has elapsed or a timely petition has been finally denied--applies here. That the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered the merits of respondent's Mills claim on collateral review does not change his conviction's finality to a date subsequent to Mills. Pp. 2510-2511.

(c) Mills announced a new rule. In reaching its conclusion in Mills and McKoy, this Court relied on a line of cases beginning with Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 98 S.Ct. 2954, 57 L.Ed.2d 973. Lockett's general rule that the sentencer must be allowed to consider any mitigating evidence could be thought to support the conclusion in Mills and McKoy that capital sentencing schemes cannot require juries to disregard mitigating factors not found unanimously, but it did not mandate the Mills rule. Each of the cases relied

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on by Mills (and McKoy) considered only obstructions to the sentencer's ability to consider mitigating evidence. Mills' innovation rests with its shift in focus to individual jurors. Moreover, there is no need to guess whether reasonable jurists could have differed as to whether the Lockett line of cases compelled Mills. Four dissenting Justices in Mills reasoned that because nothing prevented the jury from hearing the mitigating evidence, Lockett did not control; and three dissenting Justices in McKoy concluded that Lockett did not remotely support the new focus on individual jurors. Because the Mills rule broke new ground, it applies to respondent on collateral review only if it falls under a Teague exception. Pp. 2511-2513.

(d) The Mills rule does not fall within either exception. There is no argument that the first exception applies here. And this Court has repeatedly emphasized the limited scope of the second exception--for " 'watershed rules of criminal procedure implicating the fundamental fairness and accuracy of the criminal proceeding,' " O'Dell v. Netherland, 521 U.S. 151, 157, 117 S.Ct. 1969, 138 L.Ed.2d 351--which " 'is clearly meant to apply only to a small core of rules requiring observance of those procedures that ... are implicit in the concept of ordered liberty,' " ibid. This Court has yet to find a new rule that falls under this exception. In providing guidance as to what might do so, the Court has repeatedly, and only, referred to the right-to-counsel rule of Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 83 S.Ct. 792, 9 L.Ed.2d 799, which "alter[ed] [the Court's] understanding of the bedrock procedural elements essential to the fairness of a proceeding," Sawyer v. Smith, 497 U.S. 227, 242, 110 S.Ct. 2822, 111 L.Ed.2d 193. The Court has not hesitated to hold less sweeping and fundamental rules outside the exception. See, e.g.,

O'Dell v. Netherland, supra. While Mills and McKoy were decided to avoid potentially arbitrary impositions of the death sentence, the Mills rule has "none of the primacy and centrality of the rule adopted in Gideon," Saffle v. Parks, 494 U.S. 484, 495, 110 S.Ct. 1257, 108 L.Ed.2d 415. It applies narrowly and works no fundamental shift in the Court's [124 S.Ct. 2508] " 'understanding of the bedrock procedural elements' " essential to fundamental fairness, O'Dell, supra, at 167, 117 S.Ct. 1969. Pp. 2513-2515.

316 F.3d 228, reversed and remanded.

THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and O'CONNOR, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SOUTER, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined, post, p. 2515. SOUTER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, J., joined, post, p. 2517.


Thomas W. Dolgenos Chief, Federal Litigation, Ronald Eisenberg, Deputy District Attorney, Arnold H. Gordon, First Assistant District Attorney, Lynne Abraham, District Attorney, Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, Philadelphia, PA, Scott C. Gartley, Counsel of Record, Assistant District Attorney, David W. Lupas, District Attorney, Luzerne County District Attorney's Office, Wilkes-Barre, PA, for petitioners.

Joseph Cosgrove, Wilkes-Barre, PA, Matthew C. Lawry, Supervisory Assistant, Federal Defender, Maureen Kearney Rowley, Chief Federal Defender, Federal Court Division Defender Assoc. of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, Albert J. Flora, Jr., Counsel of Record, First Assistant Public Defender, William Ruzzo, Assistant Public Defender, Basil G. Russin, Chief Public Defender, Luzerne County Public Defender's Office, Wilkes-Barre, PA, for respondent.


THOMAS, Justice.

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In Mills v. Maryland, 486 U.S. 367, 108 S.Ct. 1860, 100 L.Ed.2d 384 (1988), and McKoy v. North Carolina, 494 U.S. 433, 110 S.Ct. 1227, 108 L.Ed.2d 369 (1990), this Court held invalid capital sentencing schemes that require juries to disregard mitigating factors not found unanimously. In this case, we must determine whether the rule announced in Mills and McKoy can be applied on federal habeas corpus review to a defendant whose conviction became final in 1987. Under our retroactivity analysis as set forth in Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 109 S.Ct. 1060, 103 L.Ed.2d 334 (1989), federal habeas corpus petitioners may not avail themselves of new rules of criminal procedure outside two narrow exceptions. We conclude that Mills announced a new rule that does not fall within either of Teague's exceptions.


More than 20 years ago, a jury convicted respondent, George Banks, of 12 counts of first-degree murder, and the trial court sentenced him to death. The facts of this case are set forth in detail in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision affirming respondent's conviction and sentence on direct review. See Commonwealth v. Banks, 513 Pa. 318, 521 A.2d 1 (1987). Direct review ended when this Court denied certiorari on October 5, 1987. Banks v. Pennsylvania, 484 U.S. 873, 108 S.Ct. 211, 98 L.Ed.2d 162. Approximately eight months later, this Court handed down its decision in Mills, supra, which announced that the Constitution forbids States from imposing Page 409

a requirement that the jury find a potential mitigating factor unanimously[124 S.Ct. 2509] before that factor may be considered in the sentencing decision.

Respondent pursued state postconviction relief on the theory that the instructions and verdict form given to the jury in his case violated the Mills principle, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected this claim on the merits. See Commonwealth v. Banks, 540 Pa. 143, 656 A.2d 467 (1995). Respondent then turned to the federal courts. Although the District Court denied relief, Banks v. Horn, 63 F.Supp.2d 525 (M.D.Pa.1999), the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed respondent's death sentence, Banks v. Horn, 271 F.3d 527 (2001). In reaching its decision, the Court of Appeals declined to apply the retroactivity analysis set forth in Teague v. Lane, supra, to the question whether Mills applied retroactively to respondent. This was not necessary, in the Court of Appeals' view, because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had itself applied Mills. 271 F.3d, at 543. We summarily reversed, holding that "in addition to performing any analysis required by AEDPA [the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996], a federal court considering a habeas petition must conduct a threshold Teague analysis when the issue is properly raised by the state." Horn v. Banks, 536 U.S. 266, 272, 122 S.Ct. 2147, 153 L.Ed.2d 301 (2002) (per curiam) (Banks I).

On remand, the Court of Appeals considered the retroactive application of Mills. Banks v. Horn, 316 F.3d 228 (C.A.3 2003). The court recognized that its primary task was to determine whether Mills announced a new rule, and that this, in turn, required it to ascertain whether the precedent existing at the time respondent's conviction became final dictated or compelled the rule in Mills. 316 F.3d, at 233-235. From this Court's decisions in Lockett v....

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