Cite as: 536 U. S. 266 (2002)
Petitioners seek a writ of certiorari, arguing that the Court of Appeals erred by not performing a Teague analysis, by applying Mills retroactively to respondent's case, and by concluding that the state court's decision was unreasonable under Mills. We find it unnecessary to resolve the latter two of these claims, because we determine that the Court of Appeals committed a clear error by failing to perform a Teague analysis.
In Teague, we explained that "[u]nless they fall within an exception to the general rule, new constitutional rules of criminal procedure will not be applicable to those cases which have become final before the new rules are announced." 489 U. S., at 310.5 And in Caspari, we held that "[a] threshold question in every habeas case, therefore, is whether the court is obligated to apply the Teague rule to the defendant's claim. . . . [A] federal court may, but need not, decline to apply Teague if the State does not argue it. But if the State does argue that the defendant seeks the benefit of a new rule of constitutional law, the court must apply Teague before considering the merits of the claim." 510 U. S., at 389 (citations omitted). Here, petitioners raised the Teague issue both in the District Court, see 63 F. Supp. 2d, at 544, and in the Court of Appeals, see 271 F. 3d, at 542-543. Thus, per Caspari, a case not cited in the opinion below, it was incumbent upon the Court of Appeals to perform a Teague analysis before granting respondent relief under Mills. The Court of Appeals erred in concluding that it did "not need to focus on anything other than the reason-5 We have recognized two exceptions to Teague's rule. "The first exception permits the retroactive application of a new rule if the rule places a class of private conduct beyond the power of the State to proscribe, . . . or addresses a 'substantive categorical guarante[e] accorded by the Constitution,' such as a rule 'prohibiting a certain category of punishment for a class of defendants because of their status or offense.' " Saffle v. Parks, 494 U. S. 484, 494 (1990) (citations omitted). "The second exception is for 'watershed rules of criminal procedure' implicating the fundamental fairness and accuracy of the criminal proceeding." Id., at 495.
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