Last week, the Supreme Court granted cert. in A habeas case called Metrish v. Lancaster. It's a recipe for a reversal: it's a habeas grant coming out of the Sixth Circuit and cert. was granted to the State.
Here are the issues:
(1) Whether the Michigan Supreme Court’s recognition that a state statute abolished the long-maligned diminished-capacity defense was an “unexpected and indefensible” change in a common-law doctrine of criminal law under this Court’s retroactivity jurisprudence, see Rogers v. Tennessee; and (2) whether the Michigan Court of Appeals’ retroactive application of the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision was “so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement” so as to justify habeas relief, see Harrington v. Richter.
The first issue is a little cryptic. I believe that the State appears to be challenging the Sixth Circuit's conclusion that there was any type of constitutional violation at all. It is framed as it would be on direct review. That's a little different from the all too familiar question found in issue two: a lack of deference to the state court. Not sure why it isn't framed in habeas terms. Either way, the cert. grant portends bad news for the habeas petitioner.
In other apparently bad news, the Supreme Court issued opinions today, but did not issue one in Johnson v. Williams. Just as a reminder, the question presented in that case is: Whether a habeas petitioner’s claim has been “adjudicated on the merits” for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) where the state court denied relief in an explained decision but did not expressly acknowledge a federal-law basis for the claim. From the argument, it appeared that the Court was going to avoid the question presented, which, if answered in the State's favor, will be an enormously horrible result for habeas petitioners.
But if the Court was seeking to avoid the question presented, then it would have issued a short, simple opinion by now. The longer it takes, the more I fear that this is going to be a split opinion with a terrible result.