Argued and Submitted June 11, 2015, San Francisco, California
Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada. D.C. No. 3:02-cv-00342-ECR-RAM. Edward C. Reed, Jr., Senior District Judge, Presiding.
Habeas Corpus/Death Penalty
The panel affirmed the district court's grant of habeas corpus relief regarding Mark Rogers's death sentence, affirmed the district court's denial of Rogers's motion for a stay based on competency, expanded Rogers's Certificate of Appealability as to several of his guilt-phase claims, vacated the district court's denials of relief on those claims, and remanded for further proceedings.
The panel held that a depravity-of-mind aggravating factor and jury instruction were unconstitutionally vague under clearly established Supreme Court law, and that the error was not harmless.
The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Rogers's motion to stay proceedings due to his purported incompetency.
The panel expanded the COA, vacated the district court's denials of relief as to guilt-phase claims, and remanded for further proceedings because the district court did not have the benefit of many potentially relevant cases decided while Rogers's appeal was pending, including Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309, 182 L.Ed.2d 272 (2012); Dickens v. Ryan, 740 F.3d 1302 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc); Sossa v. Diaz, 729 F.3d 1225 (9th Cir. 2014); and Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269, 125 S.Ct. 1528, 161 L.Ed.2d 440 (2005).
Catherine Cortez Masto, Attorney General, Robert E. Weiland (argued), Senior Deputy Attorney General, Office of the Nevada Attorney General, Reno, Nevada, for Respondents-Appellants/Cross-Appellees.
Rene Valladares, Federal Public Defender, Michael Pescetta (argued), Tiffani D. Hurst, and Randolph Fiedler, Assistant Federal Public Defenders, Federal Public Defender's Office, Las Vegas, Nevada, for Petitioner-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.
Before: Barry G. Silverman, Ronald M. Gould, and Andrew D. Hurwitz, Circuit Judges.
Ronald M. Gould, Circuit Judge.
Through its officials, the state of Nevada appeals the district court's grant of partial habeas corpus relief to petitioner Mark Rogers, a Nevada prisoner who has been sentenced to death. Rogers cross-appeals from the district court's decision not to stay habeas corpus proceedings due to Rogers's purported incompetency, and also challenges the district court's denial of habeas corpus relief on other claims. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § § 1291 and 2253. Because a penalty-phase jury instruction was unconstitutionally vague under law clearly established by the U.S. Supreme Court at the time of trial, and this error had a substantial and injurious effect, we affirm the district court's decision to grant the writ on this basis. We also conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Rogers a competency stay. Finally, we expand Rogers's Certificate of Appealability (" COA" ) as to several of his claims, vacate the district court's denials of relief on those claims, and remand for further proceedings.
A. Rogers's offenses and trial.