O'Dell v. Netherland, 966867

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtTHOMAS
Citation138 L.Ed.2d 351,117 S.Ct. 1969,521 U.S. 151
Decision Date19 June 1997
Docket Number966867
PartiesJoseph Roger O'DELL, III, Petitioner, v. J.D. NETHERLAND, Warden, et al

521 U.S. 151
117 S.Ct. 1969
138 L.Ed.2d 327

Joseph Roger O'DELL, III, Petitioner,

v.

J.D. NETHERLAND, Warden, et al.

No. 96-6867.
Supreme Court of the United States
Argued March 18, 1997.
Decided June 19, 1997.
Syllabus *

At the penalty phase of petitioner's state trial on capital murder, rape, and sodomy charges, evidence was presented that he had been convicted of a host of other offenses-including the kidnaping and assault of another woman while he was on parole and the murder of a fellow prisoner during a previous prison stint. The court denied his request for a jury instruction that he was ineligible for parole if sentenced to life in prison. The jury determined that petitioner presented a future danger, and he was sentenced to death. In subsequently granting federal habeas relief, the District Court concluded that this Court's intervening decision in Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154, 114 S.Ct. 2187, 129 L.Ed.2d 133-which requires that a capital defendant be permitted to inform his sentencing jury that he is parole-ineligible if the prosecution argues his future dangerousness-was not a "new'' rule within the meaning of Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 109 S.Ct. 1060, 103 L.Ed.2d 334, and thus entitled petitioner to resentencing. The Fourth Circuit reversed.

Held: Simmons' rule was new and cannot, therefore, be used to disturb petitioner's death sentence. Pp. ____-____.

(a) Under Teague, this Court will not disturb a final state conviction or sentence unless it can be said that, at the time the conviction or sentence became final, a state court would have acted objectively unreasonably by not extending the relief later sought in federal court. Teague requires a federal habeas court to determine the date on which the conviction became final; to consider whether a state court considering the defendant's claim at the time it became final would have felt compelled by existing precedent to conclude that the rule he seeks was required by the Constitution; and if not, to determine whether that new rule nonetheless falls within one of two narrow exceptions to the Teague doctrine. Lambrix v. Singletary, 520 U.S. ----, ----, 117 S.Ct. 1517, ----, 137 L.Ed.2d 771. Pp. ____-____.

(b) Petitioner's conviction became final in 1988 and Simmons was decided in 1994. Simmons is an unlikely candidate for "old-rule'' status. There was no opinion for the Court in Simmons, and the array of views expressed there suggests that the rule announced was, in light of this Court's precedent, "susceptible to debate among reasonable minds.'' Butler v. McKellar, 494 U.S. 407, 415, 110 S.Ct. 1212, 1217, 108 L.Ed.2d 347. An assessment of the legal landscape existing at the time petitioner's conviction and sentence became final bolsters this conclusion. Contrary to petitioner's position, the result in Simmons did not follow ineluctably from the decisions in Gardner v. Florida, 430 U.S. 349, 97 S.Ct. 1197, 51 L.Ed.2d 393, and Skipper v. South Carolina, 476 U.S. 1, 106 S.Ct. 1669, 90 L.Ed.2d 1. The seven opinions in Gardner produced a narrow holding that a death penalty procedure permitting consideration of secret information relevant to the offender's character and record-there a presentence report not provided to the defendant-violates the Eighth Amendment. Petitioner points to no secret evidence in his case. And the evidence he sought to present to the jury was not historical evidence about his character and record but evidence concerning what might happen, under then-extant law, after a sentence was imposed. In Skipper, too, it was evidence of past behavior that the defendant was unconstitutionally prevented from adducing. The distinction between information concerning state postsentencing law and evidence specifically related to the defendant was also at the heart of two other cases in 1988's complex legal landscape. In California v. Ramos, 463 U.S. 992, 103 S.Ct. 3446, 77 L.Ed.2d 1171, the Court concluded that California had reasonably chosen to provide some, limited, postsentence information to the capital-sentencing jury, namely the possibility of pardon. But the Court emphasized that this conclusion did not override the choices of other States not to permit their juries to be informed of postsentencing proceedings, including parole. The general proposition that the States retained the prerogative to determine how much (if at all) juries would be informed about the postsentencing legal regime was given further credence in Caldwell v. Mississippi, 472 U.S. 320, 105 S.Ct. 2633, 86 L.Ed.2d 231. The Court determined there that the prosecution and judge had improperly left the jury with the impression that a death sentence was not final because it would be extensively reviewed, with a plurality concluding that, Ramos notwithstanding, sentencing juries were never to be given information about postsentencing appellate proceedings, and Justice O'CONNOR concluding that such information-if accurate-could be provided. In light of these cases, it would hardly have been unreasonable for a jurist in 1988 to conclude that his State had acted constitutionally by choosing not to advise its jurors as to events that would (or would not) follow their death sentence recommendation. Accordingly, Simmons announced a new rule that may not be applied here unless it falls within a Teague exception. Pp. ____-____.

(c) Simmons' narrow right of rebuttal is not a watershed rule of criminal procedure implicating the fundamental fairness and accuracy of the criminal proceeding under the second exception to Teague. Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 83 S.Ct. 792, 9 L.Ed.2d 799, distinguished. Pp. ____-____.

95 F.3d 1214, affirmed.

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.

Robert S. Smith, Paw Creek, NC, for petitioner.

Katherine P. Baldwin, for respondents.

Justice THOMAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question whether the rule set out in Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154, 114 S.Ct. 2187, 129 L.Ed.2d 133 (1994)-which requires that a capital defendant be permitted to inform his sentencing jury that he is parole-ineligible if the prosecution argues that he presents a future danger-was "new'' within the meaning of Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 109 S.Ct. 1060, 103 L.Ed.2d 334 (1989), and thereby inapplicable to an already final death sentence. We conclude that it was new, and that it cannot, therefore, be used to disturb petitioner's death sentence, which had been final for six years when Simmons was decided.

I

Helen Schartner was last seen alive late in the evening of February 5, 1985, leaving the County Line Lounge in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Her lifeless body was discovered the next day, in a muddy field across a highway from the lounge. Schartner's head had been laid open by several blows with the barrel of a handgun, and she had been strangled with such violence that bones in her neck were broken and finger imprints were left on her skin. An abundance of physical evidence linked petitioner to the crime scene and crime-among other things, tire tracks near Schartner's body were consistent with petitioner's car, and bodily fluids recovered from Schartner's body matched petitioner. He was indicted on counts of capital murder, rape, sodomy, and abduction (which count was later dismissed).

After a jury trial, petitioner was found guilty on the murder, rape, and sodomy counts. During the subsequent sentencing hearing, the prosecution sought to establish two aggravating factors: that petitioner presented a future danger, and that the murder had been "wanton, vile or inhuman.'' Evidence was presented that, prior to Schartner's murder, petitioner had been convicted of a host of other offenses, including the kidnaping and assault of another woman while he was on parole, and the murder of a fellow inmate during an earlier prison stint. Petitioner sought a jury instruction explaining that he was not eligible for parole if sentenced to life in prison. The trial judge denied petitioner's request. After the sentencing hearing, the jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that petitioner "would constitute a continuous serious threat to society'' and that "his conduct in committing the offense was outrageously wanton, vile, or inhuman.'' 46 Record 208. The jury recommended that petitioner be sentenced to death. 1 The trial judge adopted the jury's recommendation and sentenced petitioner to 40 years' imprisonment each for the rape and sodomy convictions, and to death by electrocution for Schartner's murder. Petitioner appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which affirmed both the conviction and the sentence. O'Dell v. Commonwealth, 234 Va. 672, 364 S.E.2d 491 (1988). We denied certiorari. O'Dell v. Virginia, 488 U.S. 871, 109 S.Ct. 186, 102 L.Ed.2d 154 (1988). Petitioner's efforts at state habeas relief were unsuccessful, and we again denied certiorari. O'Dell v. Thompson, 502 U.S. 995, 112 S.Ct. 618, 116 L.Ed.2d 639 (1991).

Petitioner then filed a federal habeas claim. He contended, inter alia, that newly obtained DNA evidence established that he was actually innocent, and that his death sentence was faulty because he had been prevented from informing the jury of his ineligibility for parole. The District Court rejected petitioner's claim of innocence. O'Dell v. Thompson, Civ. Action No. 3:92CV480 (E.D.Va., Sept. 6, 1994), App. 171-172. But it agreed with petitioner that he was entitled to resentencing under the intervening decision in Simmons v. South Carolina, supra. The District Court described Simmons as holding "that where the defendant's future dangerousness is at issue, and state law prohibits the defendant's release on parole, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that the sentencing jury be informed that...

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445 practice notes
  • Moore v. Quarterman, Civil No. SA-03-CA-405-RF.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • December 20, 2007
    ...is one which was not dictated by precedent existing at the time the defendant's conviction became final. See O'Dell v. Netherland, 521 U.S. 151, 156, 117 S.Ct. 1969, 1973, 138 L.Ed.2d 351 (1997)(holding a "new rule" either "breaks new ground," "imposes a new obligation on the States or the ......
  • Ayala v. Wong, No. 09–99005.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • August 29, 2012
    ...rule of which he seeks the benefit is not ‘new,’ ” but had been established at the time his conviction became final. O'Dell v. Netherland, 521 U.S. 151, 156, 117 S.Ct. 1969, 138 L.Ed.2d 351 (1997). “A holding constitutes a ‘new rule’ within the meaning of Teague if it ‘breaks new ground,’ ‘......
  • Kindler v. Horn, No. CIV.A.99-CV-0161.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • September 24, 2003
    ...under Teague v. Lane, supra, it has also held that convictions become final upon its denial of certiorari. O'Dell v. Netherland, 521 U.S. 151, 157, 117 S.Ct. 1969, 1973, 138 L.Ed.2d 351, 358 (1997) ("Petitioner's conviction became final on October 3, 1988 when we declined to review the Virg......
  • Reynolds v. Cambra, No. CV977048CBMAJW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • March 9, 2001
    ...for "watershed rules of criminal procedure" that are essential to the fundamental fairness of a criminal proceeding. O'Dell v. Netherland, 521 U.S. 151, 167, 117 S.Ct. 1969, 138 L.Ed.2d 351 The rule announced in Apprendi falls within the second exception to Teague. The language of Apprendi ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
444 cases
  • Moore v. Quarterman, Civil No. SA-03-CA-405-RF.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • December 20, 2007
    ...is one which was not dictated by precedent existing at the time the defendant's conviction became final. See O'Dell v. Netherland, 521 U.S. 151, 156, 117 S.Ct. 1969, 1973, 138 L.Ed.2d 351 (1997)(holding a "new rule" either "breaks new ground," "imposes a new obligation on the States or the ......
  • Ayala v. Wong, No. 09–99005.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • August 29, 2012
    ...rule of which he seeks the benefit is not ‘new,’ ” but had been established at the time his conviction became final. O'Dell v. Netherland, 521 U.S. 151, 156, 117 S.Ct. 1969, 138 L.Ed.2d 351 (1997). “A holding constitutes a ‘new rule’ within the meaning of Teague if it ‘breaks new ground,’ ‘......
  • Kindler v. Horn, No. CIV.A.99-CV-0161.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • September 24, 2003
    ...under Teague v. Lane, supra, it has also held that convictions become final upon its denial of certiorari. O'Dell v. Netherland, 521 U.S. 151, 157, 117 S.Ct. 1969, 1973, 138 L.Ed.2d 351, 358 (1997) ("Petitioner's conviction became final on October 3, 1988 when we declined to review the Virg......
  • Reynolds v. Cambra, No. CV977048CBMAJW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • March 9, 2001
    ...for "watershed rules of criminal procedure" that are essential to the fundamental fairness of a criminal proceeding. O'Dell v. Netherland, 521 U.S. 151, 167, 117 S.Ct. 1969, 138 L.Ed.2d 351 The rule announced in Apprendi falls within the second exception to Teague. The language of Apprendi ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Institutionalizing the Culture of Control
    • United States
    • International Criminal Justice Review Nbr. 24-4, December 2014
    • December 1, 2014
    ...v. Illinois, 504 U.S. 719 (1992)Mumin v. Virginia, 500 U.S. 415 (1991)Murray v. Giarratano, 492 U.S. 1 (1989)O’Dell v. Netherland, 117 S. Ct. 1969 (1997)Oregon v. Guzek, 546 U.S. 517 (2006)Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007)Parker v. Dugger, 498 U.S. 308 (1991)Payne v. Tennessee, 501......

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