Lee v. Kemna, 534 U.S. 362, 24 (2002)

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Cite as: 534 U. S. 362 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

interviewed them in Kansas City; the witnesses had telephoned counsel the evening before the third trial day and had agreed to come to court that next day; the witnesses in fact were in court at 8:30 in the morning waiting in a witness room; and Lee saw them during a recess. App. 16-18. Countering "procurement" of the witnesses' absence by the defense, see Rule 24.10(d), Lee affirmed that he did not know "why they left" or "where they went," and asked for just "a couple hours' continuance [to] try to locate them." App. 17-18.

Rule 24.10, like other state and federal rules of its genre, serves a governmental interest of undoubted legitimacy. It is designed to arm trial judges with the information needed to rule reliably on a motion to delay a scheduled criminal trial. The Rule's essential requirements, however, were substantially met in this case. Few transcript pages need be read to reveal the information called for by Rule 24.10. "[N]othing would [have] be[en] gained by requiring" Lee's counsel to recapitulate in (a), (b), (c), (d) order the showings the Rule requires. See Osborne, 495 U. S., at 124; cf. Staub v. City of Baxley, 355 U. S. 313, 319-320 (1958) (failure to challenge "specific sections" of an ordinance not an adequate state ground barring review of federal claim when party challenged constitutionality of entire ordinance and all sections were "interdependent"). "Where it is inescapable that the defendant sought to invoke the substance of his federal right, the asserted state-law defect in form must be more evident than it is here." James v. Kentucky, 466 U. S., at 351.15

15 The dissent, indulging in hyperbole, describes our narrow opinion as a "comb" and "searc[h]" order to lower courts. Post, at 395. We hold, simply and only, that Lee satisfied Rule 24.10's essential elements. Just as in Osborne, see supra, at 377-378, we place no burden on courts to rummage through a ponderous trial transcript in search of an excuse for a defense counsel's lapse. The dissent, in this and much else, tilts at a windmill of its own invention.


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