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Monday, April 17, 2006 

The Button Case

The Supreme Court has decided to hear Carey v. Musladin, better known as the button case. Mathew Musladin was convicted of murdering Tom Struder, the new fiance of Musladin's estranged wife. At the trial, Struder's family wore buttons with pictures of Struder's face. Frequent Eminent Domain punching bag Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote the opinion throwing out Musladin's conviction and life sentence, saying that the buttons might have swayed the jury.

The Court will take this case up in the fall. I have a very limited knowledge of Criminal Procedure (because Crim law is the last field in the world that I want to do) but here's what I think about this. At issue appear to be statutory limits on habeas corpus. The petitioner would have to show that the state courts have not followed US Supreme Court precedent. Here, Reinhardt's opinion (Musladin v. Lamarque, 427 F.3d 653 (9th Cir. 2005)) doesn't say that (unless I'm totally missing something). He's looking at the Ninth Circuit's decision and how the California Court of Appeals got the case wrong in respect. The statute says look at the Court, it doesn't look like Reinhardt did, but the Court hasn't said anything on this subject anyway. What's an appeals court judge to do?

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