Sumner v. Mata, No. 79-1601

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtREHNQUIST
Citation101 S.Ct. 764,66 L.Ed.2d 722,449 U.S. 539
PartiesGeorge SUMNER, Warden, Petitioner, v. Robert MATA
Docket NumberNo. 79-1601
Decision Date21 January 1981

449 U.S. 539
101 S.Ct. 764
66 L.Ed.2d 722
George SUMNER, Warden, Petitioner,

v.

Robert MATA.

No. 79-1601.
Argued Dec. 9, 1980.
Decided Jan. 21, 1981.
Syllabus

Respondent was convicted of first-degree murder in a California state court after a trial at which eyewitnesses identified him as participating in the murder. The California Court of Appeal affirmed, rejecting respondent's contention, made for the first time, that the pretrial photographic identification employed by the police violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. The court concluded upon review of the trial record that "the facts of the present case" did not adequately support respondent's claim. Respondent did not seek review by the California Supreme Court, but later raised the pretrial identification issue in state habeas corpus proceedings, which resulted in denial of relief by the trial court, the California Court of Appeal, and the California Supreme Court. Respondent then sought federal habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, but the Federal District Court denied the petition. The United States Court of Appeals, employing the same standard used by the state courts, reversed. On the basis of findings considerably at odds with the findings of the California Court of Appeal, the United States Court of Appeals, after reviewing the state-court trial record, concluded that the photographic identification was so impermissibly suggestive as to give rise to a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification. The Court of Appeals' opinion did not refer to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), which provides that in federal habeas corpus proceedings instituted by a state prisoner "a determination after a hearing on the merits of a factual issue" made by a state court of competent jurisdiction and "evidenced by a written finding, written opinion, or other reliable and adequate written indicia, shall be presumed to be correct" unless one of seven specified conditions is found to exist or unless the habeas court concludes that the relevant state-court determination "is not fairly supported by the record."

Held : The Court of Appeals did not properly analyze respondent's challenge to his state-court conviction, given the limited nature of the review provided federal courts by § 2254. Pp. 543-552.

(a) Section 2254(d) applies to factual determinations made by state courts, whether the court be a trial court or an appellate court. The California Court of Appeal held a "hearing" within the meaning of

Page 540

§ 2254(d), since both respondent and the State were formally before the court, respondent was given an opportunity to be heard, and his claim received plenary consideration. The interest in federalism recognized by Congress in enacting § 2254(d) requires deference by federal courts to factual determinations of all state courts, and this is true particularly in a case such as this where a federal court makes its determination based on the identical record that was considered by the state appellate court and where there was no reason for the state trial court to consider the issue because respondent failed to raise it at that level. Pp. 545-547.

(b) Given the applicability of § 2254(d) to the present case, it is not apparent that the Court of Appeals, whose opinion gave no indication that § 2254 was even considered, applied the "presumption of correctness" which is mandated by the statute to the factual determinations made by the California state court. When Congress provided in § 2254(d) that a habeas court could not dispense with the "presumption of correctness" embodied therein unless it concluded that the factual determinations were not supported by the record, it contemplated at least some reasoned written references (not present here) to § 2254(d) and the state-court findings. Pp. 547-549.

(c) In providing in § 2254(d) that absent any of the enumerated factors, the burden rests on the habeas petitioner to establish "by convincing evidence that the factual determination of the State court was erroneous," Congress meant to insure that a state finding not be overturned merely on the basis of the usual "preponderance of the evidence" standard. To ensure that this mandate of Congress is enforced, a federal habeas court should include in its opinion granting the writ the reasoning which led it to conclude that any of the first seven factors were present, or the reasoning which led it to conclude that the state finding was "not fairly supported by the record." Pp. 550-552.

9 Cir., 611 F.2d 754, vacated and remanded.

Thomas A. Brady, San Francisco, Cal., for petitioner.

Page 541

Ezra Hendon, San Francisco, Cal., for respondent.

Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

A divided Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that respondent's state-court murder conviction was constitutionally invalid. Its holding has two bases: (1) the pretrial photographic identification procedure employed by state police was "so impermissibly suggestive as to give rise to a very substantial likelihood of irreparable in-court misidentification of the [respondent]"; and (2) the admission of the in-court identification "constituted error of constitutional dimension." 611 F.2d 754, 755 (1979). The question before us is whether the Court of Appeals properly analyzed respondent's challenge to his state-court murder conviction, given the limited nature of the review provided federal courts by 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

I

In 1973, respondent was convicted in the Superior Court of Kern County, Cal., of the first-degree murder of one of his fellow inmates at a California correctional institution. At trial, three witnesses testified that they had witnessed all or part of the attack on the inmate and identified respondent as participating in the murder. Respondent offered as an alibi three other witnesses who testified that respondent was in bed at the time the stabbing occurred. At no point did respondent object to his in-court identification by the State's three eyewitnesses.

On direct appeal to the California Court of Appeal, respondent claimed for the first time that the pretrial photographic identification employed by the state police violated

Page 542

the due process of law guaranteed him by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The California Court of Appeal analyzed his contention under the test earlier enunciated by this Court in Simmons v. United States, 390 U.S. 377, 88 S.Ct. 967, 19 L.Ed.2d 1247 (1968). The court explained that each case must be considered on its own facts and a violation of due process will occur and a conviction will be set aside only if the photographic identification procedure was so impermissibly suggestive as to give rise to a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification. The California court then rejected respondent's contention, in this language:

"Reviewing the facts of the present case to determine if the particular photographic identification procedure used contained the proscribed suggestive characteristics, we first find that the photographs were available for cross-examination purposes at the trial. We further find that there is no showing of influence by the investigating officers[;] that the witnesses had an adequate opportunity to view the crime; and that their descriptions are accurate. The circumstances thus indicate the inherent fairness of the procedure, and we find no error in the admission of the identification evidence." App. to Pet. for Cert. C-4—C-5

Respondent did not seek direct review of the California Court of Appeal's decision with the California Supreme Court. He did, however, later raise the pretrial identification issue in state habeas corpus proceedings. The California Superior Court, the California Court of Appeal, and the California Supreme Court all denied relief.

On December 9, 1977, respondent filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California and again raised the pretrial identification issue. On May 23, 1978, the District Court denied the petition and re-

Page 543

spondent appealed this order to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed. The court, employing the same standard used by the California state courts, concluded "the photographic identification was so impermissibly suggestive as to give rise to a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification." 611 F.2d, at 759. This conclusion was based, inter alia, on the court's finding that (1) the circumstances surrounding the witnesses' observation of the crime were such that there was a grave likelihood of misidentification; (2) the witnesses had failed to give sufficiently detailed descriptions of the assailant; and (3) considerable pressure from both prison officials and prison factions had been brought to bear on the witnesses. Id., at 758-759.

II

The findings made by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit are considerably at odds with the findings made by the California Court of Appeal. Both courts made their findings after reviewing the state-court trial record and neither court has indicated that this record is not a completely adequate record upon which to base such findings.

If this were simply a run-of-the-mine case in which an appellate court had reached an opposite conclusion from a trial court in a unitary judicial system, there would be little reason for invocation of this Court's discretionary jurisdiction to make a third set of findings. But unfortunately for the smooth functioning of our federal system, which consists of 50 state judicial systems and one national judicial system, this is not such a run-of-the-mine case. Instead, this case presents important questions regarding the role to be played by the federal courts in the exercise of the habeas corpus...

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2281 practice notes
  • Brumfield v. Stinson, No. 98-CV-0233E(F).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • December 4, 2003
    ...the federal habeas court concludes that the relevant state court determination is not fairly supported by the record. Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 101 S.Ct. 764, 66 L.Ed.2d 722 (1981). Absent these factors, the burden rests on the petitioner to establish, by clear and convincing evidence, ......
  • Williams v. Bagley, No. 02-3461.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • August 13, 2004
    ...by a state appellate court based on the state trial record. Brumley v. Wingard, 269 F.3d 629, 637 (6th Cir.2001) (citing Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 546-47, 101 S.Ct. 764, 66 L.Ed.2d 722 Finally, under long-standing law, claims which have been procedurally defaulted generally are not subj......
  • Resnover v. Pearson, Civ. No. S88-128.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • January 14, 1991
    ...at trial no rational trier of fact could have found proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. (footnote omitted). See also Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 101 S.Ct. 764, 66 L.Ed.2d 722 (1981); Dooley v. Duckworth, 832 F.2d 445 (7th Cir.1987), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 967, 108 S.Ct. 1239, 99 L.Ed.2d ......
  • Barnes v. Thompson, Nos. 94-4001
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • August 10, 1995
    ...only to "determination[s] after a hearing on the merits of a factual issue." However, as the Supreme Court observed in Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 101 S.Ct. 764, 66 L.Ed.2d 722 [Section 2254(d) does not] specify any procedural requirements that must be satisfied for there to be a "hearing......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2276 cases
  • Brumfield v. Stinson, No. 98-CV-0233E(F).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • December 4, 2003
    ...the federal habeas court concludes that the relevant state court determination is not fairly supported by the record. Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 101 S.Ct. 764, 66 L.Ed.2d 722 (1981). Absent these factors, the burden rests on the petitioner to establish, by clear and convincing evidence, ......
  • Williams v. Bagley, No. 02-3461.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • August 13, 2004
    ...by a state appellate court based on the state trial record. Brumley v. Wingard, 269 F.3d 629, 637 (6th Cir.2001) (citing Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 546-47, 101 S.Ct. 764, 66 L.Ed.2d 722 Finally, under long-standing law, claims which have been procedurally defaulted generally are not subj......
  • Resnover v. Pearson, Civ. No. S88-128.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • January 14, 1991
    ...at trial no rational trier of fact could have found proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. (footnote omitted). See also Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 101 S.Ct. 764, 66 L.Ed.2d 722 (1981); Dooley v. Duckworth, 832 F.2d 445 (7th Cir.1987), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 967, 108 S.Ct. 1239, 99 L.Ed.2d ......
  • Barnes v. Thompson, Nos. 94-4001
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • August 10, 1995
    ...only to "determination[s] after a hearing on the merits of a factual issue." However, as the Supreme Court observed in Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 101 S.Ct. 764, 66 L.Ed.2d 722 [Section 2254(d) does not] specify any procedural requirements that must be satisfied for there to be a "hearing......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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