Back in 2008, all round scumbag, Ervine Lee Davenport was convicted of murder. During his trial, he was restrained with shackles and shit, presumably because someone thought he was dangerous enough to require as much.
Here’s the rub. In Deck v. Missouri, SCOTUS ruled that shackling a criminal during a trial, biases the jury against the shackled person, and thus violates their right to a fair trial. So the state is required to show some reason why the dude must be shackled up, which didn’t happen in Davenport’s case.
When Davenport challenged his conviction, a Michigan appellate court argued that his shackling was harmless in biasing the jury, as he admitted he killed the person. His argument was self-defense, but prosecutors were also trying to prove premeditation, not whether he was the killer.
While Davenport’s section was curtained off in court to hide the shackles and such, the jurors admitted seeing that he was shackled, and discussing it. But they all suggested it did not affect their decision to convict.
Other precedents are involved here, though. In 1993, in Brecht v. Abrahamson, the court adopted a harmless error review, the court ruled that in order for someone to win on appeal in such a situation, they have to show that the thing in question did harm them. So like, did these jurors seeing the shackles, form an opinion they wouldn’t have, had they not seen that shit.
Years after Brecht, congress passed the AEDPA, which basically limits the “Get out of jail free” card for someone, on a technicality such as this. Even if there is some constitutional violation, like shackling a defendant for no good reason, unless they can show that it definitely poisoned the jury, that conviction stays in place.
As the case made its way to the 6th circuit court of appeals, they were like, “Woah, Michigan. Clearly, these shackles would have poisoned the jury against Davenport. That’s why there’s a case specifically about this shit. We aren’t just going to take your word that it didn’t poison the jury. Those dumb fucks were poisoned to the point of being brainwashed, and would probably say they weren’t, just so this mother fucker would rot in jail. Overturned, bitches!”
In a split 6:3 decision along political lines, the conservative justices sided with Brown though, overturning the 6th circuit’s decision. They argued that while the 6th circuit’s decision jived with the Brecht ruling, it failed the AEDPA’s standards miserably, and unless it passes both tests, no habeas relied is to be granted. As such, the 6th circuit are a bunch of dumb fucks.
The difference being that Brecht test is basically that the action must show, “substantial and injurious effect or influence on the verdict.” But the AEDPA is basically saying, “you only get relief if the decisions was either totally the opposite of what established law says, or based on some bullshit determination of the facts presented.”
In the liberal justices dissent, they argued that if it fails the Brecht test, it has to fail the AEDPA test, presumably because it it “contrary to established law” as outlined in the Brecht precedent. That’s a bit of a stretch, since precedent isn’t law.
But anyway, Davenport may continue to rot in prison, enjoying his prison food, and reading his prison books.