Last week, SCOTUSblog featured, as its petition of the day, the cert. petition in a case I covered around here, Langston v. Conway (back then it was called Langston v. Smith). That was a notable case around here because it was a habeas grant and the opinion itself had some great logical analysis. The case concerned the whether the evidence was sufficient to establish that petitioner used guns in furtherance of his possession of those guns.
According to SCOTUSblog, here is how the State has framed the issue:
Whether a court of appeals violates the sufficiency-of-the-evidence test laid out in Jackson v. Virginia (1979) when it judges the sufficiency of the evidence by reference to the arguments made in the prosecutor's summation, rather than in light of the evidence presented at trial; and 2) whether the decision below failed to accord the proper deference mandated by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) to a state appellate court which held that the evidence was sufficient.
Issue two is pretty garden-variety and I don't think that's applicable to the Second Circuit's decision.
Issue one, on the other hand, is pretty interesting. Do you judge sufficiency on the State's theory presented at trial or can you judge sufficiency on any old theory that the State throws at the court on habeas review (because that's what happened)? That is an extension of the principle the Supreme Court established in Richter, namely that the Supreme Court can conceivably consider almost any ground in determining whether the state court's decision was reasonable. But does that concept apply when the State attempts to change their whole theory of the case in federal court? That seems particularly nuts to me, but it could be the direction in which habeas is going. Of course, the State's argument would be more compelling if there actually was a theory on which to support the conviction in that case. But I don't think that there was.