SUMNER V. MATA, 455 U. S. 591 (1982)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Sumner v. Mata, 455 U.S. 591 (1982)

Sumner v. Mata

No. 81-844

Decided March 22, 1982

455 U.S. 591


Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) requires federal courts in habeas corpus proceedings to accord a presumption of correctness to state court findings of fact unless specified factors are present. In earlier proceedings in this case, this Court held that the Court of Appeals had not followed § 2254(d) in concluding -- contrary to the California Court of Appeal's decision on respondent's appeal from his state murder conviction -- that pretrial photographic lineup procedures used by the state police were so impermissibly suggestive as to deprive respondent of due process. The case was remanded so that the federal court could review its determination and either apply the statutory presumption of correctness of the state court findings or explain why the presumption did not apply in light of the factors listed in § 2254(d). The Court of Appeals then concluded that § 2254(d) was irrelevant in this case because its findings of fact did not differ from those of the state court, the disagreement being over the constitutional significance of certain facts. It reinstated its conclusion that the pretrial procedures were impermissibly suggestive and that respondent therefore was entitled to release or a new trial.

Held: The case must be remanded again. The ultimate question as to the constitutionality of the pretrial identification procedures is a mixed question of law and fact that is not governed by § 2254(d). In deciding this question, the federal courts may give different weight to the facts as found by the state court, and may reach a different conclusion in light of the legal standard. However, the questions of fact that underlie this ultimate conclusion are governed by the statutory presumption. Thus, the circumstances of the pretrial identification procedures in this case present questions of fact as to which the statutory presumption applies. The Court of Appeals should either apply the presumption or explain why it is not applicable in view of the factors listed in the statute.

Certiorari granted; 649 F.2d 713, vacated and remanded.

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