[Mathew] Musladin contends he shot Tom Studer in self-defense in 1994. Appeals court Judge Stephen Reinhardt said the buttons sent the message that Studer was the victim and Musladin the attacker.
IN THE COMMENTS: A lot of people think the defendant's rights were violated, but I write:
You need to take into account that the 9th Circuit was looking at a habeas petition, which was governed by the limitations created by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which permits relief only if the state court's decision was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." It's not enough that allowing the buttons violated the defendant's rights, even if it was not harmless error. You have to look at the existing Supreme Court cases -- which include nothing specifically on point -- and say the judge was unreasonable to [have] interpreted them to permit the buttons.
Seen this way, it seems clear that the Supreme Court will have to reverse.