Moore v. Helling

Petitioner, convicted in Nevada state court of first degree murder, argued that his conviction was invalid due to the trial court's use of the Kazalyn instruction, which did not separately define the terms "willful," "deliberate," and "premeditated." After petitioner was convicted, but before his conviction became final, the Nevada Supreme Court invalidated the Kazlyn instruction and replaced it with an instruction separately defining the terms "willful," "deliberate," and "premeditated." The district court subsequently granted petitioner habeas corpus relief and the State appealed. The court held that White v. Woodall's clarification of the unreasonable-refusal-to-extend rule is "clearly irreconcilable" with Babb v. Lozowsky's conclusion that the Nevada Supreme Court unreasonably applied Supreme Court precedent by failing to apply a change in state law to Babb's pending conviction; Woodall thus "effectively overruled" Babb with respect to petitioners for whom, like Babb, the relevant state court decision pre-dated Bunkley v. Florida; and, for those convictions, the court was no longer bound by Babb. In this case, petitioner's conviction became final in 2001 upon the denial of his direct appeal. Because there can be fairminded disagreement regarding whether Griffith v. Kentucky and Fiore v. White (Fiore II) apply to post conviction changes in state law, the Nevada Supreme Court did not unreasonably apply clearly established federal law when it declined to apply the Byford v. State instruction to petitioner's case. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of the petition for a writ of habeas corpus and remanded with directions to enter judgment for the State, denying the petition. View "Moore v. Helling" on Justia Law