Lee v. Kemna, 534 U.S. 362, 26 (2002)

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

Opinion of the Court

case. See post, at 393-395. If that theory holds, it would matter not at all why the witnesses left. Even if the evidence would show beyond doubt that the witnesses left because a court functionary told them to go, saying their testimony would not be needed until the next day, see supra, at 373, n. 6, Lee would lose under the dissent's approach. And that result would be unaffected should it turn out that the functionary acted on the instigation of a prosecutor who knew the judge would be at the hospital with his daughter the next day. See supra, at 369. The particular application, never mind how egregious, would be ignored so long as the Rule, like the mine run of procedural rules, generally serves a legitimate state interest.

To summarize, there was in this case no reference whatever in the trial court to Rules 24.09 and 24.10, the purported procedural impediments the Missouri Court of Appeals later pressed. Nor is there any indication that formally perfect compliance with the Rules would have changed the trial court's decision. Furthermore, no published Missouri decision demands unmodified application of the Rules in the urgent situation Lee's case presented. Finally, the purpose of the Rules was served by Lee's submissions both immediately before and at the short trial. Under the special circumstances so combined, we conclude that no adequate state-law ground hinders consideration of Lee's federal claim.17

Because both the District Court and the Court of Appeals held Lee's due process claim procedurally barred, neither court addressed it on the merits. We remand the case for that purpose. See National Collegiate Athletic Assn. v.

17 In view of this disposition, we do not reach further questions raised by Lee, i. e., whether he has shown "cause" and "prejudice" to excuse any default, Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U. S. 72, 90-91 (1977), or has made sufficient showing of "actual innocence" under Schlup v. Delo, 513 U. S. 298, 315 (1995), to warrant a hearing of the kind ordered in that case.


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