Butler v. McKellar

In Butler v. McKellar, 494 U.S. 407 (1990), the argument was made that Arizona v. Roberson (1988) was not new law and, therefore, should have been applied retroactively because it was nothing more than an application of the wellsettled law of Edwards v. Arizona (1981) to a slightly different set of facts. Arizona v. Roberson was far more intimately intertwined with Edwards v. Arizona, than was Padilla v. Kentucky with Strickland v. Washington. The Butler v. McKellar Court resoundingly rejected such a definition of what is "not new law": Butler contends that Roberson did not establish a new rule and is, therefore, available to support his habeas petition. Butler argues that Roberson was merely an application of Edwards to a slightly different set of facts. In support of his position, Butler points out that the majority had said that Roberson's case was directly controlled by Edwards. ... But the fact that a court says that its decision is within the "logical compass" of an earlier decision, or indeed that it is "controlled" by a prior decision, is not conclusive for purposes of deciding whether the current decision is a "new rule" under Teague. ... In Roberson, for instance, the Court found Edwards controlling but acknowledged a significant difference of opinion on the part of several lower courts that had considered the question previously. That the outcome in Roberson was susceptible to debate among reasonable minds is evidenced further by the differing positions taken by the judges of the Courts of Appeals for the Fourth and Seventh Circuits noted previously. It would not have been an illogical or even a grudging application of Edwards to decide that it did not extend to the facts of Roberson. We hold, therefore, that Roberson announced a "new rule." (494 U.S. at 414-15.)