STEWART v. MARTINEZ-VILLAREAL
NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
STEWART, DIRECTOR, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, et al. v. MARTINEZ-VILLAREAL
Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit
Respondent was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. His direct appeals and habeas petitions in the Arizona state courts were unsuccessful, and his first three federal habeas petitions were denied on the ground that he had not exhausted his state remedies. In his fourth federal habeas petition, he claimed, inter alia, that he was incompetent to be executed under Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U. S. 399. The District Court dismissed that claim as premature, but granted the writ on other grounds. In reversing the granting of the writ, the Ninth Circuit explained that its ruling was not intended to affect later litigation of the Ford claim. On remand, respondent moved to reopen his petition, fearing that review of his Ford claim might be foreclosed by the newly enacted Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), which establishes a "gatekeeping" mechanism for the consideration of "second or successive [federal] habeas corpus applications," Felker v. Turpin,
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Justice Rehnquist
STEWART v. MARTINEZ-VILLAREAL
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On Writ Of Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit
Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered the opinion of the Court.
In Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U. S. 399, 410 (1986) we held that "the Eighth Amendment prohibits a State from inflicting the penalty of death upon a prisoner who is insane." In this case, we must decide whether respondent Martinez-Villareal's Ford claim is subject to the restrictions on "second or successive" applications for federal habeas relief found in the newly revised 28 U. S. C. A. Section 2244 (Supp. 1997). We conclude that it is not.
Respondent was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. He unsuccessfully challenged his conviction and sentence on direct appeal in the Arizona state courts. Arizona v. Martinez-Villareal, 145 Ariz. 441, 702 P. 2d 670, cert. denied, 474 U. S. 975 (1985). He then filed a series of petitions for habeas relief in state court, all of which were denied. He also filed three petitions for habeas relief in federal court, all of which were dismissed on the ground that they contained claims on which the state remedies had not yet been exhausted.
In March 1993 respondent filed a fourth habeas petition in federal court. In addition to raising other claims, respondent also asserted that he was incompetent to be executed. Counsel for the State urged the District Court to dismiss respondent's Ford claim as premature. The court did so but granted the writ on other grounds. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the District Court's granting of the writ but explained that its instruction to enter judgment denying the petition was not intended to affect any later litigation of the Ford claim. Martinez-Villareal v. Lewis, 80 F. 3d 1301, 1309, n. 1 (CA9 1996).
On remand to the District Court, respondent, fearing that the newly enacted Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) might foreclose review of his Ford claim, moved the court to reopen his earlier petition. In March 1997 the District Court denied the motion and reassured respondent that it had " `no intention of treating the [Ford] claim as a successive petition.' " Martinez-Villareal v. Stewart, 118 F. 3d 628, 630 (CA9 1997). Shortly thereafter, the State obtained a warrant for respondent's execution. Proceedings were then held in the Arizona Superior Court on respondent's mental condition. That court concluded that respondent was fit to be executed. The Arizona Supreme Court rejected his appeal of that decision.
Respondent then moved in the Federal District Court to reopen his Ford claim. He challenged both the Conclusions reached and the procedures employed by the Arizona state courts. Petitioner responded that under AEDPA, the court lacked jurisdiction. The District Court agreed with petitioner, ruling on May 16, 1997, that it did not have jurisdiction over the claim. Respondent then moved in the ...