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Cunningham v. CA Does Not Apply Retroactively To Defendant's Conviction

By FindLaw Staff on April 14, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In Reinhold v. Rozum, No. 08-3371, the Third Circuit faced a challenge to the district court's denial of defendant's request for habeas relief, filed more than ten years after his conviction for kidnapping and related crimes became final, claiming that the Supreme Court's decision in Cunningham v. California applies retroactively to his conviction.

Under the Supreme Court's three-part test for determining the retroactivity of a rule under Teague v. Lane, first the court must determine when defendant's conviction became final.  Second, the court must ascertain the legal landscape as it then existed by deciding whether the rule is actually new.  Lastly, if the rule is new, the court must consider whether it falls within one of two exceptions to nonretroactivity. 

Here, defendant filed his habeas petition within one year of the Cunningham decision, which announced a rule that was actually new for defendant's purposes.  However, under the third part of the test for retroactivity, Cunningham did not announce a watershed rule and is therefore not retroactively applicable to defendant's conviction. 

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