Edwards v. Vannoy, No. 19-5807

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJUSTICE KAVANAUGH delivered the opinion of the Court.
PartiesTHEDRICK EDWARDS, PETITIONER v. DARREL VANNOY, WARDEN
Docket NumberNo. 19-5807
Decision Date17 May 2021

THEDRICK EDWARDS, PETITIONER
v.
DARREL VANNOY, WARDEN

No. 19-5807

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

OCTOBER TERM, 2020
Argued December 2, 2020
May 17, 2021


(Slip Opinion)

Syllabus

NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.

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

In 2007, a Louisiana jury found petitioner Thedrick Edwards guilty of armed robbery, rape, and kidnapping. At the time, Louisiana law permitted non-unanimous jury verdicts if at least 10 of the 12 jurors found the defendant guilty. In Edwards's case, 11 of 12 jurors returned a guilty verdict as to some crimes, and 10 of 12 jurors returned a guilty verdict as to others. After Edwards's conviction became final on direct review, Edwards filed a federal habeas corpus petition, arguing that the non-unanimous jury verdict violated his constitutional right to a unanimous jury. The District Court rejected Edwards's claim as foreclosed by Apodaca v. Oregon, 406 U. S. 404, and the Fifth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability. While Edwards's petition for a writ of certiorari was pending, the Court repudiated Apodoca and held that a state jury must be unanimous to convict a criminal defendant of a serious offense. Ramos v. Louisiana, 590 U. S. ___. Edwards now argues that the Ramos jury-unanimity rule applies retroactively on federal collateral review.

Held: The Ramos jury-unanimity rule does not apply retroactively on federal collateral review. Pp. 5-20.

(a) A new rule of criminal procedure applies to cases on direct review, even if the defendant's trial has already concluded. But the Court has stated that new rules of criminal procedure ordinarily do not apply retroactively on federal collateral review. The Court has stated that a new procedural rule will apply retroactively on federal collateral review only if the new rule constitutes a "watershed" rule of criminal procedure. Teague v. Lane, 489 U. S. 288, 311 (plurality opinion). When the Teague Court first articulated that "watershed" exception, however, the Court stated that it was "unlikely" that such watershed "components of basic due process have yet to emerge." Id., at 313. And

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in the 32 years since Teague, the Court has never found that any new procedural rule actually satisfies the purported exception. Pp. 5-7.
(b) To determine whether Ramos applies retroactively on federal collateral review, the Court must first ask whether Ramos announced a new rule of criminal procedure and, if so, whether that rule falls within an exception for watershed rules of criminal procedure that apply retroactively on federal collateral review. The Court concludes that Ramos announced a new rule and that the jury-unanimity rule announced by Ramos does not apply retroactively on federal collateral review. Pp. 8-14.
(1) The Ramos jury-unanimity rule is new because it was not "dictated by precedent existing at the time the defendant's conviction became final," Teague, 489 U. S., at 301, or "apparent to all reasonable jurists" at that time, Lambrix v. Singletary, 520 U. S. 518, 528. On the contrary, before Ramos, many courts interpreted Apodaca to allow for non-unanimous jury verdicts in state criminal trials. And the Ramos Court expressly repudiated Apodaca. Pp. 8-10.
(2) The new rule announced in Ramos does not qualify as a "watershed" procedural rule that applies retroactively on federal collateral review. In an attempt to distinguish Ramos from the long line of cases where the Court has declined to retroactively apply new procedural rules, Edwards emphasizes three aspects of Ramos: (i) the significance of the jury-unanimity right; (ii) Ramos's reliance on the original meaning of the Constitution; and (iii) the effect of Ramos in preventing racial discrimination in the jury process. But the Court has refused to retroactively apply other momentous cases with similar attributes. In DeStefano v. Woods, 392 U. S. 631, the Court declined to retroactively apply Duncan v. Louisiana, 395 U. S. 145, even though Duncan established the jury right itself. In Whorton v. Bockting, 549 U. S. 406, the Court declined to retroactively apply Crawford v. Washington, 541 U. S. 36, even though Crawford relied on the original meaning of the Sixth Amendment to restrict the use of hearsay evidence against criminal defendants. And in Allen v. Hardy, 478 U. S. 255 (per curiam), the Court declined to retroactively apply Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U. S. 79, even though Batson held that state prosecutors may not discriminate on the basis of race when exercising individual peremptory challenges. There is no good rationale for treating Ramos differently from Duncan, Crawford, and Batson. Pp. 10-14.
(3) Given the Court's numerous precedents holding that landmark and historic decisions announcing new rules of criminal procedure do not apply retroactively on federal collateral review, the Court acknowledges that the watershed exception is moribund and that no new rules of criminal procedure can satisfy the purported exception for watershed rules. Continuing to articulate a theoretical exception that never

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actually applies in practice offers false hope to defendants, distorts the law, misleads judges, and wastes the resources of defense counsel, prosecutors, and courts. Moreover, no one can reasonably rely on an exception that is non-existent in practice, so no reliance interests can be affected by forthrightly acknowledging reality. The watershed exception must "be regarded as retaining no vitality." Herrera v. Wyoming, 587 U. S. ___, ___ (slip op., at 11) (internal quotation marks omitted). Pp. 14-15.

Affirmed.

KAVANAUGH, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., THOMAS, ALITO, GORSUCH, and BARRETT, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which GORSUCH, J., joined. GORSUCH, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which THOMAS, J., joined. KAGAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BREYER and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined.

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Opinion of the Court

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.

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

JUSTICE KAVANAUGH delivered the opinion of the Court.

Last Term in Ramos v. Louisiana, 590 U. S. ___ (2020), this Court held that a state jury must be unanimous to convict a criminal defendant of a serious offense. Ramos repudiated this Court's 1972 decision in Apodaca v. Oregon, 406 U. S. 404, which had allowed non-unanimous juries in state criminal trials. The question in this case is whether the new rule of criminal procedure announced in Ramos applies retroactively to overturn final convictions on federal collateral review. Under this Court's retroactivity precedents, the answer is no.

This Court has repeatedly stated that a decision announcing a new rule of criminal procedure ordinarily does not apply retroactively on federal collateral review. See Teague v. Lane, 489 U. S. 288, 310 (1989) (plurality opinion); see also Linkletter v. Walker, 381 U. S. 618, 639-640, and n. 20 (1965). Indeed, in the 32 years since Teague underscored that principle, this Court has announced many important new rules of criminal procedure. But the Court has not applied any of those new rules retroactively on federal collateral review. See, e.g., Whorton v. Bockting, 549

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U. S. 406, 421 (2007) (Confrontation Clause rule recognized in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U. S. 36 (2004), does not apply retroactively). And for decades before Teague, the Court also regularly declined to apply new rules retroactively, including on federal collateral review. See, e.g., DeStefano v. Woods, 392 U. S. 631, 635 (1968) (per curiam) (jury-trial rule recognized in Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145 (1968), does not apply retroactively).

In light of the Court's well-settled retroactivity doctrine, we conclude that the Ramos jury-unanimity rule likewise does not apply retroactively on federal collateral review. We therefore affirm the judgment of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

I

On the night of May 13, 2006, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Thedrick Edwards and an accomplice kidnapped Ryan Eaton, a student at LSU. As Eaton was getting out of his car, Edwards and his accomplice confronted Eaton at gunpoint and forced him back into the car. Edwards and his accomplice then jumped into the car with Eaton. They drove with Eaton to an ATM where they hoped to withdraw money using Eaton's card. When they discovered that Eaton did not have any money in his account, they drove to Eaton's apartment. Once there, they bound and blindfolded Eaton, rummaged through his apartment, and took some of his belongings to Eaton's car.

After they were back in the car, Edwards and his accomplice coerced Eaton into arranging a meeting with Eaton's girlfriend. They then drove to the girlfriend's apartment and, at gunpoint, forced Eaton to knock on the door. When Eaton's girlfriend opened the door, Edwards and his accomplice rushed inside. Both Edwards and his accomplice were armed, and Edwards's accomplice had his gun drawn. Edwards and his accomplice instructed Eaton, Eaton's girlfriend, and two other women in the apartment to lie on the

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floor. Edwards then raped one of the women. His accomplice raped another woman. As they left, they grabbed some personal property from the apartment. Edwards and his accomplice hurried...

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