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Lee v. Kemna
United States Supreme Court
534 U.S. 362 (2002)
The State of Missouri (plaintiff) charged Remon Lee (defendant) with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Lee planned to present alibi witnesses at trial, but the witnesses disappeared from the courthouse right before their scheduled testimony. Lee’s counsel orally moved for a continuance of the trial until the next morning so he could find the witnesses. However, the trial judge denied the motion based on the judge’s speculation that the witnesses had abandoned Lee and because the judge’s schedule could not accommodate the continuance. The witnesses never testified, and Lee was convicted. The Missouri Court of Appeals found that the trial court had properly denied the continuance because Lee’s counsel had failed to comply with Missouri Supreme Court Rules 24.09 and 24.10, which required continuance motions to be written, accompanied by an affidavit, and supported by a specific factual showing. Lee subsequently filed a federal habeas corpus petition in which he raised a federal claim that he had been denied a fair opportunity to present a defense because of the allegedly improperly denied continuance. The district court denied relief, finding that the rejection of the motion based on the Missouri procedural rules was an independent and adequate state-law ground that barred review of Lee’s claim. The appellate court affirmed, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Ginsburg, J.)
Dissent (Kennedy, J.)
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