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Carey v. Musladin
United States Supreme Court
549 U.S. 70 (2006)
During Mathew Musladin’s (defendant) 14-day trial for the murder of Tom Studer, some of Studer’s family members sat in the front row of the spectator’s gallery and wore buttons with Studer’s photograph on them. Before opening statements, the court denied Musladin’s motion to preclude Studer’s family from wearing the buttons during trial, reasoning that the buttons could not possibly prejudice Musladin. The jury ultimately did not believe Musladin’s self-defense theory and convicted him of first-degree murder and related crimes. Musladin argued at every appellate stage that the buttons violated his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The California Court of Appeal affirmed Musladin’s conviction, reasoning in relevant part that spectators should be discouraged from wearing a victim’s photograph in court but that the buttons did not actually prejudice Musladin at trial because the jurors likely did not interpret the buttons as anything other than a normal expression of grief. Every other court affirmed Musladin’s conviction, and then during habeas proceedings, the federal district court granted a certificate of appealability on the buttons issue. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the lower courts, finding that their analysis of the buttons issue failed to apply a clearly established test to analyze whether spectators’ courtroom conduct prejudices a defendant. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)
Concurrence (Kennedy, J.)
Concurrence (Stevens, J.)
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