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MAYLE, WARDEN v. FELIX, 545 U.S. ---

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No. 04-563.Argued April 19, 2005--Decided June 23, 2005

Respondent Felix was convicted of murder and robbery in California state court and sentenced to life imprisonment. His current application for federal habeas relief centers on two alleged trial-court errors, both involving the admission of out-of-court statements during the prosecutor's case-in-chief but otherwise unrelated. Felix had made inculpatory statements during pretrial police interrogation. He alleged that those statements were coerced, and that their admission violated his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. He also alleged that the admission of a videotape recording of testimony of a prosecution witness violated the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause.

Felix's conviction was affirmed on appeal and became final on August 12, 1997. Under the one-year limitation period imposed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 28 U. S. C. §2244(d)(1), Felix had until August 12, 1998 to file a habeas petition in federal court. On May 8, 1998, in a timely filed habeas petition, Felix asserted his Confrontation Clause challenge to admission of the videotaped prosecution witness testimony, but did not then challenge the admission of his own pretrial statements. On January 28, 1999, over five months after the August 12, 1998 expiration of AEDPA's time limit and eight months after the court appointed counsel to represent him, Felix filed an amended petition asserting a Fifth Amendment objection to admission of his pretrial statements. In response to the State's argument that the Fifth Amendment claim was time barred, Felix asserted the rule that pleading amendments relate back to the filing date of the original pleading when both the original plea and the amendment arise out of the same "conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth ... in the original pleading," Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 15(c)(2). Because his Fifth Amendment and Confrontation Clause claims challenged the constitutionality of the same criminal conviction, Felix urged, both claims arose out of the same "conduct, transaction, or occurrence." The District Court dismissed the Fifth Amendment claim as time barred, and rejected the Confrontation Clause claim on its merits. The Ninth Circuit affirmed as to the latter claim, but reversed the dismissal of the coerced statements claim and remanded it for further proceedings. In the court's view, the relevant "transaction" for Rule 15(c)(2) purposes was Felix's state-court trial and conviction. Defining transaction with greater specificity, the court reasoned, would unduly strain the meaning of "conduct, transaction, or occurrence" by dividing the trial and conviction into a series of individual occurrences.

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