Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals applies United States v. Briggs in the context of aHabeas Petition
Nixon v. Hilton, 19-3002, 2021 WL 97353 (10th Cir. Jan. 12, 2021).
On January 12, 2021, the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied habeas relief sought by Petitioner, Barry N. Nixon, who was tried in a general court-martial and found guilty of rape in 2009. Petitioner was charged five years and nine months after the offense occurred. At the time, the UCMJ provided that the offense of rape could be “punished by death,” and that an offense “punishable by death” could be tried and punished “at any time without limitation.” For all other crimes, the limitations period was five years.
InUnited Stated v.Mangahas, 77 M.J. 220 (C.A.A.F 2018), the CAAF held that because rape could not constitutionally be punishable by death under the Eight Amendment, the offense was subject to a five-year limitations period. The district court distinguished Mangahas, noting that it was decided on direct appeal and did not retroactively apply to a collateral challenge. Petitioner appealed the district court’s decision to the Tenth Circuit.
While the appeal was pending, the Supreme Court abrogated Mangahas in United States v. Briggs, 19-108, 2020 WL 7250099 (U.S. Dec. 10, 2020), unanimously holding that “punishable by death” meant capable of punishment by death under the penalty provisions of the UCMJ, and not when taking into account all applicable law. In other words, because the death penalty was authorized by statute for rape, that offense could be tried at any time. The Tenth Circuit therefore applied the law established in Briggsand affirmed the denial of habeas relief.
An analysis of the Supreme Court’s decision in Briggs is attached.
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