Monday, June 18, 2007

Did 9/11 equal manifest necessity for a mistrial

Last week, the 6th Circuit in Walls v. Konteh, 06-3472 reversed the district court's grant of habeas relief because the state court's decision to declare a mistrial due to the events of September 11th was not contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law.

Jonathan Adler of the Volokh Conspiracy already posted the basics here - well worth reading - and I will not duplicate his work. The case presents an interesting set of facts, but not just because of 9/11. On the one hand is the Judge's reasonable decision to declare a mistrial when our country was under attack. On the other hand is the failure of the Judge to go through the proper analysis of whether a mistrial would be necessary while considering the alternatives, which may in fact meet the 2254 standard of review, standing alone. The majority opinion focused on the reasonableness of the decision itself, while the dissent focused on the (arbitrary?) way the judge arrived there. I agree with every word Judge Gilman wrote in dissent - the trial court's analysis, or lack thereof, was unreasonable, and contrary to Federal law as established by the Supreme Court. However, the decision to declare a mistrial was anything but unreasonable, and that's why the majority's decision to reverse the grant of habeas is the right one.