Yates v. Aiken, No. 86-6060

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTEVENS
PartiesDale Robert YATES, Petitioner v. James AIKEN, Warden, et al
Docket NumberNo. 86-6060
Decision Date12 January 1988

484 U.S. 211
108 S.Ct. 534
98 L.Ed.2d 546
Dale Robert YATES, Petitioner

v.

James AIKEN, Warden, et al.

No. 86-6060.
Argued Dec. 2, 1987.
Decided Jan. 12, 1988.
Syllabus

Petitioner was tried in state court on charges of murder and armed robbery stemming from a 1981 store robbery during which his accomplice and the storekeeper's mother were killed in a fight after petitioner left the store. Although petitioner testified that the mother had not even entered the store before he left and that he had not intended to kill or harm anyone, the jury was instructed "that malice is implied or presumed from the use of a deadly weapon." After his conviction and death sentence were affirmed by the South Carolina Supreme Court, petitioner sought a writ of habeas corpus from that court, arguing, inter alia, that the burden-shifting instruction given at trial was unconstitutional under Sandstrom v. Montana, 442 U.S. 510, 99 S.Ct. 2450, 61 L.Ed.2d 39. While the habeas corpus application was pending, petitioner also called to the state court's attention this Court's subsequent decision in Francis v. Franklin, 471 U.S. 307, 105 S.Ct. 1965, 85 L.Ed.2d 344. After this Court summarily vacated the state court's summary denial of the writ and remanded the case "for further consideration in light of Francis," the state court, although acknowledging that the jury instruction suffered from the same infirmities addressed in Francis, denied relief on state-law grounds without considering whether Francis might apply retroactively and without discussing Sandstrom.

Held: As a matter of federal law, petitioner's conviction cannot stand in light of Francis. Pp. 215-218.

(a) Sandstrom, which had been decided before petitioner's trial took place, established that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits jury instructions that have the effect of relieving the State of its burden of proof on the critical question of intent in a criminal prosecution. Francis was merely an application of that governing principle. Accordingly, respondent's argument that a newly announced constitutional rule should not generally be applied retroactively to cases pending on collateral review cannot operate to deny petitioner the benefit of Francis. That argument simply does not apply where the "new" holding is merely an application of a rule that was well settled at the time of conviction. Pp. 215-217.

(b) The State's contention that it has the authority to establish the scope of its own habeas corpus proceedings and to refuse therein to apply a new rule of federal constitutional law retroactively is rejected since Francis did not announce a new rule and since the state court's opinion

Page 212

does not place any limit on the issues it will entertain in collateral proceedings. Having considered the merits of the federal claim, that court has the duty to grant the relief that federal law requires. Pp. 217—218.

290 S.C. 231, 349 S.E.2d 84, reversed and remanded.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

David I. Bruck, Columbia, S.C., for petitioner.

Donald John Zelenka, Columbia, S.C., for respondents.

Justice STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner and an accomplice robbed a country store in South Carolina in 1981. After petitioner left the store, a fight occurred in which the accomplice and the storekeeper's mother were both killed. Petitioner was convicted of murder and armed robbery and sentenced to death. His conviction and sentence were affirmed by the South Carolina Supreme Court in 1982. State v. Yates, 280 S.C. 29, 310 S.E.2d 805, cert. denied, 462 U.S. 1124, 103 S.Ct. 3098, 77 L.Ed.2d 1356 (1983).

At his trial, petitioner testified that the victim had not even entered the store before he left and that he had not intended to kill or to harm anyone. The jury, however, was instructed "that malice is implied or presumed from the use of a deadly weapon." 1 A few months after petitioner's conviction was affirmed, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that it was error to give such an instruction. See State v. Elmore, 279 S.C. 417, 308 S.E.2d 781 (1983). Thereafter, petitioner sought a writ of habeas corpus from the South Carolina Supreme Court, arguing that the burden-shifting instruction given at his trial was unconstitutional under the state court's reasoning in Elmore and under our decision in Sandstrom v. Montana, 442 U.S. 510, 99 S.Ct. 2450, 61 L.Ed.2d 39 (1979). While the application for habeas corpus was pending, we decided an-

Page 213

other case involving a burden-shifting instruction, Francis v. Franklin, 471 U.S. 307, 105 S.Ct. 1965, 85 L.Ed.2d 344 (1985), and petitioner promptly called that decision to the attention of the State Supreme Court. The court denied the writ without opinion.

Petitioner then sought a writ of certiorari in this Court. We summarily vacated the judgment of the South Carolina Supreme Court and remanded the case "for further consideration in light of Francis v. Franklin." Yates v. Aiken, 474 U.S. 896, 106 S.Ct. 218, 88 L.Ed.2d 218 (1985). On remand, the state court determined that the jury instruction at petitioner's trial "suffered from the same infirmities present in Elmore and addressed in Francis v. Franklin." 290 S.C. 231, 232, 349 S.E.2d 84, 85 (1986). Nevertheless, the court held that petitioner was not entitled to relief. As an explanation for its holding, the court stated that its decision in Elmore should not be applied retroactively to invalidate a conviction that was final when Elmore was decided. The opinion did not consider whether the decision in Francis v. Franklin might apply retroactively and also did not discuss our decision in Sandstrom v. Montana, on which petitioner had relied.

In dissent, Justice Finney reasoned that Elmore and Francis v. Franklin should be applied retroactively because an instruction that shifts the burden of proof on an element of the offense particularly in a capital case—substantially impairs the truth-finding function of the jury. Moreover, he reasoned, given our decision in Sandstrom v. Montana in 1979, the case did not represent a significant change in the law.2

Page 214

We granted certiorari because we were concerned that the South Carolina Supreme Court had not fully complied with our mandate. 480 U.S. 945, 107 S.Ct. 1601, 94 L.Ed.2d 788 (1987). We now reverse.

I

Our order remanding the case for further consideration in the light of Francis v. Franklin was predicated entirely on the fact that petitioner's challenge to the jury instruction asserted a substantial federal question. Our opinion in Francis...

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141 practice notes
  • Williams v. Chrans, No. 87 C 02084.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • July 5, 1990
    ...to govern a case which is closely analogous to those which have been previously considered in the prior case law." Yates v. Aiken, 484 U.S. 211, 108 S.Ct. 534, 537, 98 L.Ed.2d 546 (1988), quoting Desist v. United States, 394 U.S. 244, 263, 89 S.Ct. 1030, 1041, 22 L.Ed.2d 248 (1969) (Harlan,......
  • People v. Graham
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court
    • May 19, 1988
    ...convictions already final should get the benefit of a "new rule." In the Court's most recent retroactivity decision, Yates v. Aiken, 484 U.S. 211, 108 S.Ct. 534, 98 L.Ed.2d 546, the Court did not reach the government's suggestion that the Court adopt the Harlan approach to retroactivity for......
  • People v. Nieto Benitez, No. S022789
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 3, 1992
    ...with malice, we reject defendant's claim that he was denied his constitutional right to due process of law. (Compare Yates v. Aiken (1988) 484 U.S. 211, 214-217, 108 S.Ct. 534, 536-538, 98 L.Ed.2d 1 Unlabeled section references are to this code. 2 People v. Sedeno, supra, was disapproved on......
  • Jones v. Commonwealth, Record No. 131385
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • February 2, 2017
    ...is open to a claim controlled by federal law, the state court "has a duty to grant the relief that federal law requires." Yates v. Aiken, 484 U.S. 211, 218 (1987). Where state collateral review proceedings permit prisoners to challenge the lawfulness of their confinement, States cannot refu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
140 cases
  • Williams v. Chrans, No. 87 C 02084.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • July 5, 1990
    ...to govern a case which is closely analogous to those which have been previously considered in the prior case law." Yates v. Aiken, 484 U.S. 211, 108 S.Ct. 534, 537, 98 L.Ed.2d 546 (1988), quoting Desist v. United States, 394 U.S. 244, 263, 89 S.Ct. 1030, 1041, 22 L.Ed.2d 248 (1969) (Harlan,......
  • People v. Graham
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court
    • May 19, 1988
    ...convictions already final should get the benefit of a "new rule." In the Court's most recent retroactivity decision, Yates v. Aiken, 484 U.S. 211, 108 S.Ct. 534, 98 L.Ed.2d 546, the Court did not reach the government's suggestion that the Court adopt the Harlan approach to retroactivity for......
  • People v. Nieto Benitez, No. S022789
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 3, 1992
    ...with malice, we reject defendant's claim that he was denied his constitutional right to due process of law. (Compare Yates v. Aiken (1988) 484 U.S. 211, 214-217, 108 S.Ct. 534, 536-538, 98 L.Ed.2d 1 Unlabeled section references are to this code. 2 People v. Sedeno, supra, was disapproved on......
  • Jones v. Commonwealth, Record No. 131385
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • February 2, 2017
    ...is open to a claim controlled by federal law, the state court "has a duty to grant the relief that federal law requires." Yates v. Aiken, 484 U.S. 211, 218 (1987). Where state collateral review proceedings permit prisoners to challenge the lawfulness of their confinement, States cannot refu......
  • 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. Allen, 130 S. Ct. 1942 (2010)Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19 (2002)Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280 (1976)Yates v. Aiken, 484 U.S. 211 (1988)Zant v. Stephens, 462 U.S. 862 (1983)340 International Criminal Justice Review Appendix BTable B1. Bivariate Correlations Between All Var......

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