9th Circuit finds insufficient evidence that California death row inmate validly waived his right to state habeas review

In Kirkpatrick v. Chappell, ___ F.3d ___ (9th Cir. Oct. 10. 2017), the majority of a three-judge panel reversed the district court's ruling that certain claims in William Kirkpatrick's federal habeas petition were unexhausted and, therefore, subject to dismissal.  It was undisputed that the claims at issue had been presented to the California Supreme Court in a petition for writ of habeas corpus.  Kirkpatrick, however, had signed a pro se form purporting to waive the claims.  The California Supreme Court found the waiver valid and dismissed the petition.  The panel majority, in contrast, found insufficient evidence in the record to support a finding that Kirkpatrick had made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his right to proceed with the claims.  The district court erred in its analysis of the issue because it applied § 2254(d) deference to the California Supreme Court's waiver determination.  In the view of the majority, such deference applies only to review of adjudications of claims on the merits by a state court.  (The dissent maintains that the waiver finding is subject to a presumption of correctness under § 2254(e)(1).)  The case is remanded for consideration of the claims on the merits.