Carey v. Musladin
Musladin sued his prison warden, Carey, for a writ of habeas corpus, complaining that the state improperly imprisoned Musladin, because the state district court unreasonably applied federal law guaranteeing a right to a fair trial, in violation of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). During Musladin’s murder trial in a California district court, the victim’s family wore pictures of the victim on buttons. Musladin requested the judge to instruct the family members to stop wearing the buttons to avoid prejudicing the jury. The judge denied the request, and Musladin was convicted of murder. He appealed to the California Court of Appeal, which upheld the district court’s ruling, holding that although the buttons were an impermissible prejudicial factor, the buttons did not brand Musladin as guilty.
Musladin filed for a writ of habeas corpus in federal district court, suing under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. He argued that the state court unreasonably applied clearly established federal law that guaranteed him a right to a fair trial. The district court denied the writ of habeas corpus. On appeal, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the buttons were an impermissible factor and that there was no requirement of “branding.”
In the absence of controlling Supreme Court law, did the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit exceed its authority under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) by overturning respondent's state conviction of murder on the ground that the Courtroom spectators included three family members of the victim who wore buttons depicting the deceased?