, Mays v. Hines :: 592 U.S. ___ (2021) :: US LAW US Supreme Court Center

Mays v. Hines :: 592 U.S. ___ (2021) :: US LAW US Supreme Court Center

    USLaw.Site Opinion Summary and Annotations

    In March 1985, Hines, wearing a hid hunting knife, checked right into a lodge. The supervisor had positioned Jenkins in fee of the resort, imparting her with a bag of money. Another traveler, Jones, later determined Jenkins’ frame in a guest's room, with several knife wounds. Her cash, keys, and vehicle had been missing. A institution of vacationers later picked Hines up from beside Jenkins' broken-down vehicle. Hines had dried blood on his blouse and “ke[pt] contradicting himself.” Hines admitted to his sister that he had stabbed somebody at the motel; he had numerous cash and the keys to Jenkins’ car. Hines modified his tale while he surrendered to the police however provided to admit if guaranteed the demise penalty. A search of Hines' resort room found out stab marks.

    Jones testified he knew the resort's owners and had stopped by using, taken a key from the office, and entered Hines’ room to use the bathroom. Hines’ recommend careworn to the jury this extraordinary sequence of occasions. The jury heard discrepancies among his account and the first responders' timeline. When Hines unsuccessfully sought post-conviction assessment, Jones admitted that he turned into on the inn with a lady aside from his wife and had helped himself to a room key. His story became confirmed by his companion who watched through the room’s window. Hines’ lawyer was aware about Jones’ affair however had decided to spare him some embarrassment.

    The Supreme Court reversed the Sixth Circuit's 2020 grant of habeas comfort. A federal court “shall no longer” furnish habeas remedy unless the country choice took an “unreasonable” view of the records or law. Substantial proof linked Hines to the crime. The theory that a more competitive legal professional ought to have modified the end result by way of casting doubt on Jones’ credibility or portraying him as a possible suspect ignores that Jones’ testimony approximately discovering the body did no longer indicate that Hines become the offender. Ample different evidence did that. If Jones’ credibility mattered, the jury had excellent reasons to be skeptical. Had the Sixth Circuit well considered the entire report, it might have had little trouble deferring to the Tennessee court docket’s conclusion that Hines suffered no prejudice.


    Primary Holding
    Supreme Court reverses the Sixth Circuit's order granting habeas alleviation with recognize to a 1985 murder; great proof linked the defendant to the crime, so he suffered no prejudice due to his legal professional's alleged ineffective help.
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    on petition for writ of certiorari to the united states court docket of appeals for the sixth circuit

    No. 20–507. Decided March 29, 2021

    Per Curiam.

    A Tennessee jury observed Anthony Hines responsible of murdering Katherine Jenkins at a lodge. Witnesses saw Hines fleeing inside the sufferer’s vehicle and carrying a bloody shirt, and his circle of relatives individuals heard him admit to stabbing a person on the inn. But almost 35 years later, the Sixth Circuit held that Hines became entitled to a new trial and sentence due to the fact his legal professional need to have attempted harder accountable every other guy. In achieving its conclusion, the Sixth Circuit left out the overpowering proof of guilt that supported the contrary conclusion of a Tennessee court. This technique it seems that violated Congress’ prohibition on demanding nation-courtroom judgments on federal habeas evaluation absent an errors that lies “ ‘beyond any opportunity for fairminded war of words.’ ” Shinn v. Kayer, 592 U. S. ___, ___ (2020) (per curiam) (slip op., at 1); 28 U. S. C. §2254(d). We now opposite.


    On March 1, 1985, Hines boarded a bus journeying from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Bowling Green, Kentucky. His female friend and her mother had given him the bus price tag and $20. Hines also carried with him a hunting knife concealed underneath his blouse. When the mom requested approximately the knife, Hines defined: “ ‘I in no way go anywhere bare.’ ” “ ‘I continually have my blade.’ ” Record in Hines v. Carpenter, No. three:05–cv–00002 (MD Tenn.), Doc. 173–4, p. 112.

    Hines’ travels delivered him to the outskirts of Nashville, wherein he checked into the CeBon Motel. Jenkins worked there as a maid. A few hours after Hines’ arrival, the manager put Jenkins in rate of the inn and furnished her with a bag of money to make trade for departing guests.

    In the early afternoon, another visitor located Jenkins’ frame in one of the rooms. She was wrapped in a bloody bedsheet, and an post-mortem later discovered several knife wounds that protected deep punctures to her chest and genitalia. Her money, wallet, and car keys had been lacking, as was her car. Around the same time, another employee noticed a person leaving the inn in Jenkins’ automobile. The employee tried to observe the vehicle, but it sped away.

    Later that afternoon, a collection of travelers located Hines and the automobile—now damaged down—along the facet of the road, and that they offered to pressure him toward his sister’s domestic in Bowling Green. During the ride, the travelers determined that Hines had dried blood on his blouse and was sporting a folded-up jacket. They also noticed that Hines “regarded actual anxious,” “ke[pt] contradicting himself,” and “talked a lot,” at one factor claiming that he had purchased the car from an “antique lady for $three hundred or $four hundred.” Id., Doc. 173–2, at 33, fifty six; identification., Doc. 173–three, at 34–35.

    Hines told a unique story to his circle of relatives. His sister observed the blood, and Hines admitted that he had stabbed any person on the hotel—even though he defined the sufferer as a male employee who had assaulted him. For precise degree, Hines physically demonstrated how he had knifed the meant assailant. Despite his lack of ability to pay for a bus price tag only a few days in advance, Hines purchased a barbecue grill and informed his sister that he had acquired a good sized amount of cash. Family members additionally observed that he had the keys to Jenkins’ car, which have been on a specific keychain. According to Hines, he had taken the keys in a war with but any other guy who had attempted to rob him.

    Hines altered his tale once more when he surrendered to law enforcement. Before the sheriff started questioning him, Hines volunteered that “he took the car however he didn’t murder the lady.” Id., at fifty four–55, 57. But Hines later modified his mind and provided to admit to the homicide if the sheriff “could assure him the loss of life penalty.” Id., Doc. 173–4, at 72.

    The research turned up other physical evidence connecting Hines to the crime. Police discovered Jenkins’ pockets in which Hines had abandoned her vehicle. And a search of his hotel room found out stab marks at the walls that were comparable in length to the injuries on Jenkins’ frame. When an investigator requested Hines about the damage, he identified the holes as “ ‘knife marks.’ ” Id., at eighty three–84.

    The jury heard all of this evidence at trial. It also heard testimony from the man—Kenneth Jones—who had determined Jenkins’ frame. According to Jones, he knew the owners of the resort and had stopped by means of on the afternoon of the homicide. Finding no person within the office, Jones had lingered outdoor before knowing that he had to use the rest room. He again to the workplace, took a key, and entered the room. Hines’ suggest harassed to the jury this oddly fortuitous sequence of events, noting that “Jones become playing around at that lodge that Sunday afternoon”; that Jones regarded “fearful”; and that Jones simply occurred to be present while “[t]right here become a whole lot of something occurring.” Id., Doc. 173–6, at 72–seventy three. The jury also heard discrepancies among Jones’ account of finding the body and the timeline given by means of first responders. But it discovered Hines guilty.

    The full truth got here out several years later whilst Hines sought postconviction evaluation inside the Tennessee courts. In a new statement, Jones admitted that he become at the lodge neither with the aid of happenstance nor with the aid of himself, however instead in the organization of a female aside from his wife. The duo had rendezvoused at the lodge almost every Sunday for at least two years, and Jones was widely recognized to the staff. But when Jones and his partner arrived on the day of the murder, they located no person to greet them. After anticipating a while, first on the motel after which at a close-by restaurant, Jones have become impatient and helped himself to a room key from the workplace. Upon locating the body, he quickly lower back to his automobile—a fact showed by way of his accomplice who watched thru the room’s open curtains as Jones entered and left. Jones then known as the authorities, drove his companion domestic, and back to the lodge to meet the sheriff.

    The postconviction proceedings also found out that Hines’ attorney changed into typically aware of Jones’ affair from the outset, but had determined to spare him the embarrassment of aggressively pursuing the matter. Hines v. State, 2004 WL 1567120, *8 (Tenn. Crim. App., July 14, 2004). But regardless of Hines’ present day insistence that this choice amounted to useless help of suggest, the Tennessee postconviction courtroom found no prejudice. Id., at *22, *27–*28; see additionally Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984) (“[T]he defendant ought to display that . . . counsel’s mistakes had been so serious as to deprive the defendant of a honest trial”). The court burdened “the energy of evidence towards [Hines],” and it disregarded as “ ‘farfetched’ ” that trial recommend must have accused Jones of committing (and self-reporting) a grisly crime in a public area wherein he was “acknowledged by using the workforce.” Hines, 2004 WL 1567120, *27. Such an issue, the court docket defined, “could have ended in a loss of credibility for the defense.” Ibid. The courtroom also observed that the emergence of a new corroborating witness—Jones’ associate—similarly undermined any proposal that he become the wrongdoer. Id., at *28. And although Jones’ evolving tale deprived the jury of all the records, the court docket reasoned that his “true reason for being on the [m]otel” had little relevance to Hines’ conviction or sentence. Ibid.

    Sixteen years later, a divided panel of the Sixth Circuit disagreed. 814 Fed. Appx. 898 (2020). According to the bulk, a higher research “should have helped the defense to credibly solid Jones as an opportunity suspect, or at the least critically undermine his testimony.” Id., at 938. For example, trial counsel could have claimed that Jones killed Jenkins to cover up his affair. Counsel may additionally have highlighted that Jones changed into making plans to lease a room from Jenkins at the day of the crime. Id., at 938–939. Or recommend might have higher burdened ability flaws in Jones’ version of activities, such as discrepancies about the precise time he mentioned the murder. Id., at 940. The majority further surmised that Hines had “no clear purpose” for the homicide, and it noted the absence of “DNA or fingerprint proof.” Id., at 939.

    Missing from this evaluation, but, become the voluminous evidence of Hines’ guilt. Among many other things, the bulk neglected Hines’ flight in a bloodstained blouse, his robbery of the vehicle and cash, and his ever-changing memories approximately stabbing and robbing diverse human beings at the day of the crime. See usually id., at 937–942.

    Judge Kethledge dissented. In his view, the majority “ ‘nowhere g[ave] deference to the state courts, nowhere explain[ed] why their utility of Strickland turned into unreasonable in preference to simply (within the majority’s view) incorrect, and nowhere provide an explanation for[ed] why fairminded jurists may want to view [Hines’] claim handiest the identical manner the bulk d[id].’ ” Id., at 942. Judge Kethledge then reviewed all the proof disregarded by the bulk. He found “0 motive to assume that, after research, recommend should have supplied Jones as the ‘actual killer.’ ” Id., at 944. And he explained that impeaching Jones “could were a waste of time” because Jones had “presented no testimony regarding Hine[s’ ] guilt.” Ibid.


    Hines’ felony principle is easy: A competent legal professional could have supplied the entire truth approximately Jones’ affair and blamed him for the crime. According to Hines, this approach could have deflected a lot suspicion—or at least so undermined Jones’ credibility—that suggest’s omission created a “ ‘huge’ ” danger of “a unique result.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. a hundred and seventy, 189 (2011). In fact, Hines motives that, “had [he] not been located with Mrs. Jenkins’ vehicle, Jones would had been the primary suspect.” Brief in Opposition 17 (emphasis delivered).

    Our evaluation is easy too. Because a Tennessee courtroom taken into consideration and rejected Hines’ concept, a federal court docket “shall not” furnish a writ of habeas corpus until the earlier selection took an “unreasonable” view of the information or regulation. §2254(d). This “standard is difficult to fulfill.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011). The time period “unreasonable” refers not to “regular blunders” or even to instances wherein the petitioner gives “a strong case for alleviation,” however alternatively to “ ‘severe malfunctions within the country criminal justice syste[m].’ ” Ibid. In different words, a federal courtroom may also interfere on a State’s “ ‘sovereign strength to punish offenders’ ” handiest whilst a selection “changed into so lacking in justification . . . beyond any opportunity for fairminded disagreement.” Id., at 103.

    If this rule method whatever, it is that a federal court docket ought to cautiously consider all the motives and proof assisting the kingdom court’s choice. After all, there is no way to maintain that a choice was “missing in justification” without identifying—not to mention rebutting—all the justifications. Ibid. Any different technique would allow a federal court docket to “ ‘essentially evaluat[e] the merits de novo’ ” via omitting inconvenient info from its evaluation. Shinn, 592 U. S., at ___–___ (slip op., at eight–9); see additionally Richter, 562 U. S., at 102–103.

    The Sixth Circuit did precisely that. Nowhere in its 10-web page dialogue of Hines’ theory did the bulk recollect the large proof linking him to the crime: His flight in a bloody shirt; his ownership of the sufferer’s keys, wallet, and automobile; his habitual association with knives; or his ever-converting tales about tussling with imaginary assailants. 814 Fed. Appx., at 933–942. The court docket rather focused on all the motives why it idea Jones “could have” been a possible alternative suspect. E.g., id., at 938–942. And instead of interact with the “dissent[’s] recount[ing of] th[e] evidence” towards Hines, the bulk in reality promised that it had “cautiously considered” this proof earlier than summarily dismissing it as “not overwhelming.” Id., at 939.

    Had the Sixth Circuit well taken into consideration the whole record, it might have had little hassle deferring to the Tennessee courtroom’s end that Hines suffered no prejudice concerning his conviction or sentence. Again, the essential question was not whether or not the Sixth Circuit itself ought to see a “ ‘massive’ . . . chance of a distinctive end result” had Hines’ lawyer taken a one of a kind approach. Cullen, 563 U. S., at 189. All that mattered became whether the Tennessee court, however its sizeable “latitude to fairly decide that a defendant has now not [shown prejudice],” nevertheless controlled to blunder so badly that every fairminded jurist might disagree. Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S. 111, 123 (2009).

    It did no longer. The Tennessee court docket fairly appeared to the good sized proof of Hines’ guilt. Hines, 2004 WL 1567120, *27–*28. And it moderately rejected the “ ‘farfetched’ ” opportunity that Jones devoted and self-suggested a gruesome homicide, within the presence of a witness, at an area in which he changed into widely recognized to the group of workers. Ibid. In mild of this trustworthy, common sense analysis, the Sixth Circuit had no license to hypothesize an opportunity concept of the crime wherein Jones became a suspect 35 years after the truth—a whole lot much less rely on that fanciful concept to furnish relief.[1]*

    Similarly untenable changed into the Sixth Circuit’s backstop concept that a greater competitive lawyer could have modified the end result by means of casting doubt on Jones’ credibility. 814 Fed. Appx., at 940. As an preliminary count number, this conjecture ignores that Jones’ short testimony about coming across the body did no longer imply that Hines become the offender. Ample different evidence turned into what did that. Perhaps in light of this obvious disjuncture, the Sixth Circuit’s evaluation of why an attack on Jones’ credibility might had been efficient in the end circled returned to the bulk’s predominant assumption “that Jones became a feasible alternative suspect.” Id., at 941. Regardless, to the volume Jones’ credibility really mattered, the jury already had several right reasons to be skeptical—as an instance, his atypical story of discovering the body; the insinuations of Hines’ attorney; and the discrepancies between Jones’ exact description of locating the frame and the account of the first responders. None of those made a difference.


    The Sixth Circuit had no motive to revisit the decision of the Tennessee court docket, a whole lot less ignore the sufficient proof supporting that courtroom’s conclusion. We supply the petition for a writ of certiorari and respondent’s motion to continue in forma pauperis, and we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

    It is so ordered.

    Justice Sotomayor dissents.

    1 *Even on its personal terms, there's little advantage to the Sixth Circuit’s speculation that a jury who heard Jones’ complete tale might have blamed him rather than Hines. After all, the story Jones advised at trial became in lots of ways more suspicious than the fact. According to his initial account, Jones thankfully stopped by means of the motel, hung around outdoor, after which stumbled upon the frame. All without a witness to verify his actions. The jury heard this tale—and Hines’ lawyer burdened its oddities—but found that Hines was the assassin. A federal courtroom cannot now declare that the reality would have made a distinction.
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