PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth
Circuit reversed a denial of federal habeas relief, 28 U.S.C.
§2254, on the ground that the state court had
unreasonably rejected respondent's claim of ineffective
assistance of counsel. The Court of Appeals' decision
ignored well-established principles. It did not consider
reasonable grounds that could have supported the state
court's summary decision, and it analyzed
respondent's arguments without any meaningful deference
to the state court. Accordingly, the petition for certiorari
is granted, and the judgment of the Court of Appeals is
Nicholas Beaudreaux shot and killed Wayne Drummond during a
late-night argument in 2006. Dayo Esho and Brandon Crowder
were both witnesses to the shooting. The next day, Crowder
told the police that he knew the shooter from middle school,
but did not know the shooter's name. Esho described the
shooter, but also did not know his name. Seventeen months
later, Crowder was arrested for an unrelated crime. While
Crowder was in custody, police showed him a middle-school
yearbook with Beaudreaux's picture, as well as a photo
lineup including Beaudreaux. Crowder identified Beaudreaux as
the shooter in the Drummond murder.
interviewed Esho the next day. They first spoke with him
during his lunch break. They showed him a display that
included a recent picture of Beaudreaux and pictures of five
other men. Esho tentatively identified Beaudreaux as the
shooter, saying his picture "was 'closest' to
the gunman." App. to Pet. for Cert. 4a. Later that day,
one of the officers found another photograph of Beaudreaux
that was taken "closer to the date" of the
shooting. Record ER 263. Beaudreaux looked different in the
two photographs. In the first, '"his face [was] a
little wider and his head [was] a little higher.'"
Id., at ER 262. Between four and six hours after the
first interview, the officers returned to show Esho a second
six-man photo lineup, which contained the older picture of
Beaudreaux. Beaudreaux's photo was in a different
position in the lineup than it had been in the first one.
Esho again identified Beaudreaux as the shooter, telling the
officers that the second picture was "'very
close.'" Id., at ER 263-ER 264. But he
again declined to positively state that Beaudreaux was the
shooter. Esho was hesitant because there were "a few
things" he remembered about the shooter that would
require seeing him in person. Id., at ER 283-ER 284.
At a preliminary hearing, Esho identified Beaudreaux as the
shooter. At trial, Esho explained that it "clicked"
when he saw Beaudreaux in person based on "the way that
he walked." Id., at ER 285. After seeing him in
person, Esho was "sure" that Beaudreaux was the
shooter. Ibid. At no time did any investigator or
prosecutor suggest to Esho that Beaudreaux was the one who
shot Drummond. Ibid.
was tried in 2009 for first-degree murder and attempted
second-degree robbery. Esho and Crowder both testified
against Beaudreaux and both identified him as Drummond's
shooter. The jury found Beaudreaux guilty, and the trial
court sentenced him to a term of 50 years to life.
Beaudreaux's conviction was affirmed on direct appeal,
and his first state habeas petition was denied.
2013, Beaudreaux filed a second state habeas petition. He
claimed, among other things, that his trial attorney was
ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress
Esho's identification testimony. The California Court of
Appeal summarily denied the petition, and the California
Supreme Court denied review. Petitioner then filed a federal
habeas petition, which the District Court denied.
divided panel of the Ninth Circuit reversed. The panel
majority spent most of its opinion conducting a de
novo analysis of the merits of the would-be suppression
motion-relying in part on arguments and theories that
Beaudreaux had not presented to the state court in his second
state habeas petition. See App. to Pet. for Cert. la-7a;
Record ER 153-ER 154. It first determined that counsel's
failure to file the suppression motion constituted deficient
performance. See App. to Pet. for Cert. 3a. The circumstances
surrounding Esho's pretrial identification were
"unduly suggestive," according to the Ninth
Circuit, because only Beaudreaux's picture was in both
photo lineups. Id., at 4a. And, relying on Ninth
Circuit precedent, the panel majority found that the
preliminary hearing was unduly suggestive as well.
Ibid, (quoting Johnson v. Sublett, 63 F.3d
926, 929 (CA9 1995)). The panel majority next concluded that,
under the totality of the circumstances, Esho's
identification was not reliable enough to overcome the
suggestiveness of the procedures. App. to Pet. for Cert. 5a.
The panel majority then determined that counsel's failure
to file the suppression motion prejudiced Beaudreaux, given
the weakness of the State's case. Id., at 5a-6a.
After conducting this de novo analysis of
Beaudreaux's ineffectiveness claim, the panel majority
asserted that the state court's denial of this claim was
not just wrong, but objectively unreasonable under
§2254(d). See id., at 6a-7a. Judge Gould
dissented. He argued that the state court could have
reasonably concluded that Beaudreaux had failed to prove
prejudice. Id., at 8a.
State of California petitioned for certiorari.
the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(AEDPA), a federal court cannot grant habeas relief
"with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the
merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of
the claim . . . resulted in a decision that was contrary to,
or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly
established Federal law, as determined by" this Court,
or "a decision that was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented
in the State court proceeding." §2254(d). When, as
here, there is no reasoned state-court decision on the
merits, the federal court "must determine what arguments
or theories . . . could have supported the state court's
decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible
fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or
theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior
decision of this Court." Harrington v. Richter,
562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011). If such disagreement is possible,
then the petitioner's claim must be denied.
Ibid. We have often emphasized that "this
standard is difficult to meet" "because it was
meant to be." Ibid.; e.g., Burt v. Titlow, 571
U.S. 12, 20 (2013). The Ninth Circuit failed to properly
apply this standard.
prove ineffective assistance of counsel, a petitioner must
demonstrate both deficient performance and prejudice.
Strickland v. Washington,466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984).
The state court's denial of relief in this case was not
an unreasonable application of Strickland. A
fairminded jurist could conclude that counsel's
performance was not deficient because counsel reasonably
could have ...