SCOTUS Hears Another Michigan Habeas Case

Last month we reported that the United States Supreme Court took two Attorney General appeals from the Sixth Circuit’s grant of habeas corpuses. On Monday, the Court agreed to hear yet another Michigan Attorney General appeal. The issue presented in Renico v. Lett, Supreme Court No. 09-338, is:

“Whether the Sixth Circuit erred in holding that the Michigan Supreme Court failed to apply clearly established precedent by denying habeas relief on double jeopardy grounds when the state trial court declared a mistrial after the foreperson said that the jury was not going to be able to reach a verdict.”

The case stems from a Wayne County Conviction. Defendant was charged with first degree murder and possession of a handgun during the commission of a felony. His first trial was declared a mistrial after the judge met with the jury foreperson and decided that the jury was deadlocked. Defendant was tried again and convicted of second degree murder and felonious possession of a handgun, and was sentenced to sixteen to forty years in prison. Defendant appealed, claiming that his retrialwas a double jeopardy violation.

The Michigan Court of Appeals found that double jeopardy existed and reversed the conviction. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed and held that the declaration of mistrial by the trial judge was supported by the evidence and within his discretion. The US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan granted defendant's petition for habeas corpus. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision, holding that the trial judge failed to exercise sound discretion in declaring the mistrial and affirmed the grant of habeas corpus.

Click here to read the Sixth Circuit’s opinion. Click here to read the Attorney General’s certiorari petition. Click here to read the Respondent’s answer.