About This Show
SCOTUScast is a project of the Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies. This audio broadcast series provides expert commentary on U.S. Supreme Court cases as they are argued and issued. The Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker. We hope these broadcasts, like all of our programming, will serve to stimulate discussion and further exchange regarding important current legal issues. View our entire SCOTUScast archive at http://www.federalistsociety.org/SCOTUScast.
Most Recent Episode
Kernan v. Cuero and Dunn v. Madison - Post-Decision SCOTUScast
Dec 21 17
On November 6, 2017, the Supreme Court issued per curiam decisions in Kernan v. Cuero and Dunn v. Madison, both cases involving habeas petitions filed by state prisoners. In this episode, we will be discussing both decisions.
Up first is Kernan v. Cuero. Michael Cuero pled guilty to two felony charges, on the understanding that the maximum prison time he faced was 14 years and 4 months. In the course of making his plea Cuero admitted to a previous conviction for residential burglary, which qualified as a predicate offense or “strike” under California’s “three strikes” law. After the plea but before sentencing, however, the prosecution realized that another of Cuero’s previous convictions counted as a second such strike. Over Cuero’s objection, the trial court granted the prosecution’s motion to amend its criminal complaint to add the additional strike--but also permitted Cuero to withdraw his guilty plea in light of the change. He ultimately entered a new guilty plea to the amended complaint, and the presence of the second strike exposed him to an enhanced sentence of a minimum of 25 years and a maximum of life imprisonment. Cuero was then sentenced to 25 years to life, the conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal, and his state habeas petition was denied by the California Supreme Court.
Cuero then sought habeas relief in federal district court, which denied his petition. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, however, reversed that judgment and held that the state trial court had “acted contrary to clearly established Supreme Court law” by refusing to enforce the original plea agreement with its 14-years-and-4 months maximum sentence.
On November 9 the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Ninth Circuit and remanded the case. In a per curiam opinion, the Court held that the Ninth Circuit had erred when it held that “federal law” as interpreted by the Supreme Court “clearly” established that specific performance of the original plea agreement was constitutionally required.
Our next case is Dunn v. Madison. In 2016, Vernon Madison petitioned an Alabama trial court to stay his death sentence after a series of recent strokes which, he argued, left him incompetent to be executed. Madison has been awaiting his death sentence since the 1980s, when he was convicted of capital murder. In Ford v. Wainwright and Panetti v. Quarterman the