Bunkley v. Florida

PETITIONER: Clyde Timothy Bunkley
RESPONDENT: Florida
LOCATION: Florida Supreme Court

DOCKET NO.: 02-8636
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: Florida Supreme Court

CITATION: 538 US 835 (2003)
DECIDED: May 27, 2003
GRANTED: May 27, 2003

Facts of the case

In 1989, Clyde Timothy Bunkley was convicted of burglary in the first degree because he was armed with a “dangerous weapon” at the time of the burglary. The “dangerous weapon” was a pocketknife with a 2.5-3 inch blade. In 1997, the state court interpreted the “common pocketknife” exception to the definition of “weapon” as a blade of 3.75 inches or shorter. Bunkley filed a motion for state post-conviction relief based on the state court’s 1997 decision and argued that his pocketknife could not have been considered a “weapon.” The trial court rejected the defendant’s motion for relief, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Florida Supreme Court also affirmed and found the “common pocketknife” exception did not apply retroactively because the 1997 decision was merely an “evolutionary refinement,” not a “major constitutional change,” and therefore did not apply retroactively.

Question

Should the first-degree burglary conviction be remanded to the state court to consider whether the inmate’s pocketknife fit within the “common pocketknife” exception at the time his conviction became final?