Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Brown v. Farwell case brief

Brown v. Farwell case brief summary
525 F.3d 787 (9th Cir. 2008)

A jury found petitioner inmate guilty of two counts of sexual assault on a child under the age of 14, in violation of Nev. Rev. Stat. § 200.366. The inmate filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.S. § 2254. The United States District Court for the District of Nevada granted the petition relying on an uncontested report that discredited a DNA expert's testimony. Respondent warden appealed.

At trial for sexual assault, the State's deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) expert provided critical testimony that was later proved to be inaccurate and misleading. Respondents have conceded at least twice that, absent this faulty DNA testimony, there was not sufficient evidence to sustain the inmate's conviction.


  • The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that, had the State's expert's inaccurate and unreliable testimony on the DNA evidence been excluded, there would have been insufficient evidence to convict the inmate on each essential element of the offenses beyond a reasonable doubt. 
  • The court further agreed with the district court's conclusion that the Nevada Supreme Court's decision was both contrary to and an unreasonable application of established United States Supreme Court precedent. 
  • The Nevada Supreme Court's decision was contrary to Jackson; once the unreliable DNA testimony was excluded, a proper application of the Jackson standard led to the conclusion that not all of the essential elements of the crime were in fact proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Admission of the DNA testimony violated the inmate's due process rights.

The grant of the petition for writ of habeas corpus was affirmed. The reversal of his conviction was affirmed. Respondents were ordered to retry the inmate within 180 days or release him from custody.

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