Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada Roger L. Hunt, Senior District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 3:03-cv-00257-RLH-RAM
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reinhardt, Circuit Judge:
Argued and Submitted April 19, 2012-San Francisco, California
Before: Alfred T. Goodwin, Stephen Reinhardt, and Mary H. Murguia, Circuit Judges.
Opinion by Judge Reinhardt;
In January 1999, Calvin Jackson was charged with six counts related to the sexual assault of his on-again, off-again girlfriend of ten years, Annette Heathmon. He was found guilty of forcing his way into her apartment, threatening her with a screwdriver, and forcing her to perform oral sex and have vaginal sexual intercourse. Jackson denied that an assault occurred and claimed that he and Heathmon had consensual sex. At trial, the court prevented Jackson from presenting testimony from police witnesses to support his defense that Heathmon made false claims against him in the past alleging physical or sexual assault, and that this was another instance of her false accusations. It also prevented Jackson from cross-examining Heathmon about prior acts of prostitution. Jackson was convicted, and contends that the trial court's rulings denied him his constitutional right to present a complete defense and to confront the complaining witness under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. We agree as to his claim that his right to present a defense was unconstitutionally abridged, and hold that the state court's conclusion to the contrary was an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. We therefore reverse and remand to the district court for the conditional issuance of the writ.
Calvin Jackson and Annette Heathmon were involved in a turbulent, on-again, off-again relationship for about ten years. In 1998, Heathmon broke up with Jackson and moved into an apartment complex. Although Jackson visited Heathmon at the complex in an apartment she shared with a friend, when she moved out of that apartment and into her own unit she did not inform Jackson where she had moved.
On October 21, 1998, the same night that Annette Heath-mon moved into her new apartment, a mutual friend named Willie Williams knocked on Heathmon's door accompanied by Jackson, who was not initially visible to Heathmon. According to Heathmon, Jackson forced his way into her apartment, threatened to stab her with a screwdriver if she did not agree to have sex with him, raped her and beat her. While Jackson was in her apartment, Heathmon testified, he cut the clothes hanging in her closet with a knife that she kept with her on her bed, ripped the phone from the wall, and stole a ring from her dresser and some food from the freezer. Jackson left the apartment dragging Heathmon with him, demanding that she walk with him to his car. As Heathmon was being led away from the apartment by Jackson, the pair encountered Fred Webb, a security guard at the complex whom Heathmon had been seeing romantically. When Webb came towards them, Jackson let go of Heathmon and left the scene. She told Webb that Jackson had cut up her clothes, and demanded that Webb pursue him. Although Webb caught up with Jackson, he did not detain him at the scene and Jackson left. Jackson was ultimately arrested and charged with burglary, battery with the intent to commit a crime, first degree kidnapping with the use of a deadly weapon, and two counts of sexual assault with the use of a deadly weapon and robbery with the use of a deadly weapon.
Although Heathmon submitted a letter recanting her accusations against Jackson, she ultimately recanted that recantation and testified to the assault at trial. In her testimony, Heathmon discussed other instances in which Jackson had allegedly physically or sexually assaulted her but had not been charged with any crime. In response, Jackson sought to introduce testimony from officers who had responded to or investigated Heathmon's previous claims of assault and found that her claims were not substantiated by the physical evidence at the scene or expressed disbelief as to her version of the events. The district court precluded this testimony, as well as counsel's attempt to cross-examine Heathmon regarding any prior acts of prostitution. Jackson was convicted of burglary, battery with the intent to commit a crime, first degree kidnapping with the use of a deadly weapon, and two counts of sexual assault with the use of a deadly weapon.
After the jury returned a guilty verdict, Jackson challenged his conviction on direct appeal, alleging that the district court's rulings denied him his right to present a defense and to confront the witness against him. On appeal, the Nevada Supreme Court rejected Jackson's contention that the district court's evidentiary rulings violated his due process right to present a defense.*fn1 In rejecting Jackson's appeal, the Nevada Supreme Court implicitly concluded that the excluded evidence was neither relevant nor material to his defense. In holding that the trial court acted appropriately, it additionally relied on the state rule of evidence barring the introduction of extrinsic evidence to challenge the credibility of a witness and held that the exception to that rule, set forth in Miller v. Nevada, 779 P.2d 87 (Nev. 1989), did not apply. Under Miller, if a criminal defendant accused of a sexual assault seeks to introduce evidence that the claimant has made prior false claims of sexual assault, the defendant must provide written notice to the trial court of his intent, and the court must conduct a hearing to determine its admissibility. Id. at 89-90. On review of Jackson's appeal, the Nevada Supreme Court held that the record did not reveal that Jackson had complied with the Miller procedure, and thus that the trial court appropriately excluded the evidence due to Jackson's noncompliance with the state evidentiary rule.
After exhausting his habeas appeals in the state court, Jackson filed a petition in the district court, again asserting that the trial court's ruling had denied him his right to present a defense and to confront the witness against him. The district court denied relief, and Jackson was granted a certificate of appeal on these two issues.*fn2