Brief Fact Summary. An individual was convicted of murder, but a Supreme Court case decided after his conviction concluded that a procedural aspect of all cases including his was deemed invalid.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. “[W]here a constitutional claim is so novel that its legal basis is not reasonably available to counsel, a defendant has cause for his failure to raise the claim in accordance with applicable state procedures.”
Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.
State procedural rules promote not only the accuracy and efficiency of judicial decisions, but also the finality of those decisions, by forcing the defendant to litigate all of his claims together, as quickly after trial as the docket will allow, and while the attention of the appellate court is focused on his case.
Facts. The Respondent, Daniel Ross (the “Respondent”), was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. The Respondent argued that he lacked malice and acted in self defense. Pursuant to state law, the jury was instructed that the defendant had the burden of proving these defenses. The Supreme Court in “[Mullaney v. Wilbur] [ ] struck down, as violative of due process, the requirement that the defendant bear the burden of proving lack of malice [and] two years later, [Hankerson v. North Carolina], held that Mullaney was to have retroactive application.”
The Respondent appealed his conviction to the North Carolina Supreme Court, but “he did not challenge the constitutionality of these instructions.