Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Gonzalez: Confrontation Clause Error Was Harmless

In Gonzalez v. Sec. Fla. Dep’t of Corrections, No. 09-15599 (Jan. 3, 2011), the Court affirmed the denial of habeas relief to a Florida inmate sentenced to death for a 1992 murder.

The Court did not reach the issue whether Gonzalez’ post-collateral motion in Florida State Court was “properly filed” for purposes of tolling the federal habeas statute of limitations, and instead denied the petition on the merits.

The Court rejected the argument that the Confrontation Clause error in admitting at trial the confession of Gonzalez’ non-testifying co-defendants was not harmless error. The Court agreed with the Florida Supreme Court that in light of Gonzalez’ own confession, and other evidence, the error in admitting this evidence was harmless.

The Court also rejected the argument that the Florida state courts erroneously disallowed two of Gonzalez’ peremptory challenges. The Court noted that the Supreme Court has held that entitlement to peremptory challenges is a matter of State law, and that there is no constitutional right to peremptory challenges. Consequently, the erroneous denial of a peremptory challenge cannot establish a constitutional violation.