Christopher J. Spreitz, Petitioner-Appellant,
Charles L. Ryan, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.
July 11, 2013
Submitted March 4, 2019
from the United States District Court for the District of
Arizona No. 4:02-CV-00121-JMR John M. Roll, District Judge,
Timothy M. Gabrielsen (argued), Assistant Federal Public
Defender; John M. Sands, Federal Public Defender; Office of
the Federal Public Defender, Tucson, Arizona; Susan B. Fox
and Sean Bruner, Law Office of Sean Bruner Ltd., Tucson,
Arizona; for Petitioner-Appellant.
Stover Gard (argued) and Jeffrey A. Zick, Section Chief
Counsel; Kent E. Cattani, Chief Counsel, Criminal
Appeals/Capital Litigation Section; Mark Brnovich, Attorney
General; Office of the Attorney General, Tucson, Arizona; for
Before: Richard A. Paez, Marsha S. Berzon, and Richard C.
Tallman, Circuit Judges.
Corpus / Death Penalty
panel reversed the district court's denial of habeas
corpus relief with respect to Christopher J. Spreitz's
death sentence, and remanded, in a case in which Spreitz
argued that the Arizona Supreme Court violated Eddings v.
Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104 (1982), by refusing to consider,
as a matter of law, mitigating evidence of Spreitz's
longstanding alcohol and substance abuse on the ground that
he did not establish a causal connection between this
mitigating evidence and the crime.
panel held that the district court erred in concluding that
Spreitz's claim that the Arizona Supreme Court violated
Eddings is procedurally defaulted. The panel
explained that the first opportunity Spreitz had to raise
that claim was before the post-conviction-relief (PCR) court,
at which time he did so.
the decision of the PCR court - which first declared the
claim waived, but proceeded to adjudicate the claim on the
merits - was contrary to clearly established Supreme Court
precedent, the panel accorded that decision no deference and
reviewed Spreitz's Eddings claim de novo. The
panel concluded that the Arizona Supreme Court violated
Eddings by impermissibly requiring that Spreitz
establish a causal connection between his longstanding
substance abuse and the murder before considering and
weighing the evidence as a nonstatutory mitigating factor.
The panel concluded that the error was not harmless.
panel affirmed the district court's judgment denying
relief with respect to Spreitz's conviction in a
concurrently filed memorandum disposition.
Judge Tallman wrote that the record does not establish that
either the sentencing court or the Arizona Supreme Court
unconstitutionally refused to consider relevant mitigating
evidence; and that even if the Arizona courts did violate
Eddings, Spreitz cannot show that this error had a
"substantial and injurious effect or influence" on
his ultimate sentence.
1994, an Arizona jury convicted Christopher J. Spreitz
("Spreitz") of first-degree murder. The victim was
thirty-nine year old Ruby Reid ("Reid"). Finding
that the cruelty of the murder outweighed any mitigating
circumstances, the trial judge sentenced Spreitz to death.
Spreitz appeals the district court's denial of his
petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging his
conviction and sentence. We affirm the district court's
judgment with respect to Spreitz's conviction,
reverse with respect to his sentence.
challenging his sentence, Spreitz argues that the Arizona
Supreme Court unconstitutionally affirmed his death sentence
by failing to consider mitigating evidence of his
longstanding alcohol and substance abuse. He contends that
the state court refused to consider, as a matter of law, this
evidence in mitigation because he did not establish a causal
connection between the crime and his long-term alcohol and
substance abuse. In Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S.
104, 110 (1982), the Supreme Court held that under both the
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, a sentencer in a capital
case may not "refuse to consider, as a matter of
law, any relevant mitigating evidence" offered by
the defendant. Id. at 114. Although a sentencer
"may determine the weight to be given relevant
mitigating evidence . . . they may not give it no weight by
excluding such evidence from their consideration."
Id. at 114-15 (footnote omitted). In interpreting
and applying Eddings, the Supreme Court has
explained that "full consideration of evidence that
mitigates against the death penalty is essential if the
[sentencer] is to give a reasoned moral response to
the defendant's background, character, and crime."
Penry v. Lynaugh (Penry I), 492 U.S. 302,
328 (1989), abrogated on other grounds by Atkins v.
Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002) (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted). Moreover, the Supreme Court has been
clear: requiring a defendant to prove a causal nexus between
his mitigating evidence and the crime is "a test we
never countenanced and now have unequivocally rejected."
Smith v. Texas, 543 U.S. 37, 45 (2004) (per curiam).
time of Spreitz's sentencing, Arizona Revised Statute
Annotated § 13-703(G)(1994) listed five mitigating
factors, and Arizona case law additionally recognized
nonstatutory mitigating factors, including, for example, a
defendant's difficult family background or mental
condition not severe enough to qualify as a statutory
mitigating factor. In an en banc decision of our court,
McKinney v. Ryan, 813 F.3d 798 (9th Cir. 2015),
cert denied, 137 S.Ct. 39 (2016) (mem), we
For a period of a little over 15 years in capital cases, in
clear violation of Eddings, the Supreme Court of
Arizona articulated and applied a "causal nexus"
test for nonstatutory mitigation that forbade as a matter of
law giving weight to mitigating evidence, such as family
background or mental condition, unless the background or
mental condition was causally connected to the crime.
Id. at 802. As a result, we held in
McKinney that "[a]pplication of the causal
nexus test to nonstatutory mitigating factors violated
Eddings, for it resulted in Arizona courts being
entirely forbidden, as a matter of state law, to treat as a
mitigating factor a family background or a mental condition
that was not causally connected to a defendant's
crime." Id. Spreitz argues that the Arizona
Supreme Court applied its causal nexus test in his case,
refusing to consider evidence of his long-term substance and
alcohol abuse because he did not adequately establish a
causal connection between that history of abuse and his
McKinney, "the precise question before us is
whether the Arizona Supreme Court applied its
unconstitutional causal nexus test in affirming
[Spreitz]'s death sentence on de novo
review." Id. at 804 (emphasis and internal
quotation marks omitted). For the reasons that follow, we
conclude that it did.
Spreitz's Crimes, Conviction, and Sentence
25, 1989, the police arrested Spreitz after discovering Ruby
Reid's body in the desert. Upon questioning, Spreitz
confessed to murdering Reid. We briefly provide the facts of
evening of May 18, after drinking heavily and being rejected
by the woman he was dating, Spreitz "picked up"
Reid at a convenience store. State v. Spreitz
(Spreitz I), 945 P.2d 1260, 1264-65 (Ariz.
1997). In his confession, Spreitz claimed that
Reid voluntarily left with him and that his understanding was
that they would have sex later that evening. Id. at
1265. Spreitz further claimed that he drove her out to the
desert, where Reid decided she no longer wanted to have sex.
Id. The two fought as a result. Id. Spreitz
explained that Reid slapped him and that he responded by
punching her in the mouth. Id. Spreitz then sexually
assaulted Reid-"remov[ing] her clothing and ha[ving]
vaginal intercourse with her." Id. Spreitz also
recounted that he hit Reid in the head multiple times with a
rock "to make her stop yelling." Id. He
explained that he left Reid without knowing whether she was
alive or dead. Id.
after leaving Reid in the desert, Spreitz was stopped by a
Tucson police department officer. Id. at 1264. The
officer observed that Spreitz had a ripped shirt, smelled of
feces, and appeared to be covered in blood and fecal matter.
Id. In addition, when detectives later searched
Spreitz's car, they found blood spatter in the trunk,
some of which was inconsistent with Spreitz's blood
characteristics. Id. at 1265.
Monday morning, May 22, Reid's naked and decomposing body
was discovered on the outskirts of Tucson. Id. At
trial, "the medical examiner testified that, due to the
advanced state of decomposition, he could not determine the
full extent and nature of [Reid]'s injuries."
Id. Even so, he was able to observe "bruising
on the legs, arms, and back; bruising and abrasions on the
buttocks; several broken ribs; internal bleeding; a broken
jaw; several head lacerations; and a skull fracture where the
skull had been 'shoved in.'" Id. The
medical examiner concluded that Reid had been killed by
"blunt-force trauma to the head." Id.
addition to finding Reid's body "[a]t the scene,
police detectives observed tire tracks leading back to the
pavement, oil stains in the dirt, footprints, and drag marks
in the dirt leading away from the body. They also found
feces-stained pants, tennis shoes, socks, a used tampon, and
a torn brassiere. Two blood-stained rocks lay next to the
body." Id. A few days later, police arrested
2, 1989, a grand jury indicted Spreitz for first-degree
murder, Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 13-1105, 13-703;
sexual assault, Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 13-406(A)
& (B); and kidnapping, Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§
13-304(A)(3) & (B). Spreitz I, 945 P.2d at 1265.
After five years of pre-trial proceedings mostly regarding
the admissibility of DNA evidence, a seven-day jury trial
began on August 9, 1994. Id. at 1266. After the
conclusion of the trial, the jury returned guilty verdicts on
all three counts: first-degree murder (both premeditated and
felony murder), sexual assault, and kidnapping. Id.
to both his aggravation-mitigation and sentencing hearings
before the trial judge, Spreitz submitted evidence and a
memorandum in support of certain mitigating circumstances. As
noted earlier, at the time of Spreitz's sentencing,
Arizona's death penalty statutes provided a list of five
specific mitigating factors; Arizona case law recognized
nonstatutory mitigating factors as well. See Ariz.
Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-703(G); McKinney, 813 F.3d
at 802. Spreitz argued as nonstatutory mitigating factors:
"(1) his dysfunctional family life and lack of
socialization; (2) a history of alcohol and drug abuse; (3)
his expressions of remorse; [(4)] his good behavior while
incarcerated; [(5)] his lack of adult convictions; [and (6)]
no prior record of violent tendencies." Spreitz
I, 945 P.2d at 1279. Spreitz argued as statutory
mitigating factors: (1) his age at the time of the murder,
Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-703(G)(5), and (2) that his
"capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct
or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law was
significantly impaired [due to alcohol use], but not so
impaired as to constitute a defense to prosecution,"
id. § 13-703(G)(1); see Spreitz I, 945
P.2d at 1279.
provided evidence of and argued for all the foregoing
mitigating circumstances but focused heavily on a combination
of his relationship with his mother and his long history of
alcohol and substance abuse. To that end, Spreitz submitted a
written report by and presented testimony from an examining
psychologist, Dr. Todd Flynn, Ph.D. After conducting
interviews and research, Dr. Flynn concluded that
Spreitz's longstanding alcohol and substance abuse should
be considered as both a statutory and nonstatutory mitigating
factor. In his report, which was admitted into evidence at
the aggravation and mitigation hearing, Dr. Flynn repeatedly
emphasized Spreitz's longstanding substance
By age twelve or thirteen, Chris Spreitz began drinking
alcohol and smoking marijuana. By age 15, he drank steadily
on weekends and would have a shot of vodka before school.
The collateral information shows that the alcohol abuse
continued to intensify after he left home. A variety of
persons . . . described him as a heavy drinker. This includes
a second cousin, Scott [Jouett], who saw him to be
intoxicated, "a majority of the time," when he was
visiting Santa Barbara a week before the current offense. To
the interviewing investigator, Mr. [Jouett] also described,
"several different occasions when Chris has
blackouts," while drinking alcohol.
It appears completely clear from the available information
that Chris Spreitz had a longstanding problem with alcohol
which probably reached the level of physical dependence. He
described himself as drinking in the morning as early as age
15. Virtually everyone else who spent much time with him
described him as a heavy drinker.
Dr. Flynn concluded that Spreitz's alcohol abuse,
childhood home life, and stunted development, combined with
rejection by his girlfriend on the day of the crime, and
intoxication at the time of the crime, led to the murder.
end of his report, Dr. Flynn summarized his findings and
opinions with respect to both statutory and nonstatutory
mitigating factors. He opined that both Spreitz's age,
Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-703(G)(5), and impaired
capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or
conform his conduct to the law, Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §
13-703(G)(1), were mitigating statutory factors. As to §
13-703(G)(5), specifically, Dr. Flynn opined that a
combination of a disturbing upbringing in a "pathogenic,
emotionally neglectful home environment," and
"[y]ears of alcoholism intoxication" combined to
cause major deficits in Spreitz's social and emotional
development. As to § 13-703(G)(1), Dr. Flynn offered a
similar conclusion. In light of Spreitz's "history
of alcoholism . . ., a significant but unknown degree of
alcohol intoxication is likely" on the night of the
crime. In addition, Spreitz's "history strongly
suggests years of early experiences likely to have caused a
build-up of pent-up angry, aggressive feelings toward women
generally (and older women especially) which may have burst
forth with uncontrollable intensity with or without alcohol
intoxication." Dr. Flynn concluded that Spreitz's
intoxication on the night of the crime coupled with his early
childhood experiences "likely . . . contributed to an
uncontrollable outburst of aggression" and inability to
control his conduct.
Flynn also concluded that certain nonstatutory mitigating
factors were present. The nonstatutory mitigating factors
included, in his opinion: Spreitz's low potential for
future violence, the "failure of [Spreitz's] parents
to provide treatment for alcohol abuse in [his] teenage
years," and the "emotionally deprived, physically
punitive home environment" of Spreitz's upbringing.
Dr. Flynn also emphasized that even if both statutory
mitigating factors failed to satisfy the statutory threshold,
they may still "be appropriately considered . . . as
November 28, 1994, the trial court conducted an
aggravation-mitigation hearing. At the hearing, Spreitz
called three mitigation witnesses: Dr. Flynn and two
correctional officers from the Pima County jail, where
Spreitz was incarcerated. The State did not offer any
witnesses or evidence at the hearing. Dr. Flynn testified
consistently with his report, as detailed above.
same date, a probation officer filed a Pre-Sentence Report,
It appears the defendant became involved in the senseless
commission of the instant offense due to his alcohol and drug
abuse. After five years in custody, he now admits his
substance abuse problem; however, this does not condone his
involvement in the offense. It is unfortunate the victim died
before the defendant had his revelation.
to the sentencing hearing, Spreitz also submitted several
letters from friends, family, and jail personnel.
December 21, 1994, the trial court conducted a sentencing
hearing. Spreitz, Spreitz's counsel, the victim's
sister, and the prosecutor each addressed the
court. The prosecutor first disputed the
mitigating evidence presented by Spreitz at the
mitigation-aggravation hearing. With respect to Spreitz's
alcohol abuse, the prosecutor argued that Spreitz's
intoxication at the time of the crime did not meet the
statutory definition for mitigation under § 13-703(G)(1)
because his conduct both during the murder and afterwards
demonstrated that "he knew what he was doing." The
prosecutor emphasized that the evidence revealed that Reid
had been forcibly abducted and stuffed into the trunk of a
car, thus forcing her to spend time "contemplat[ing] the
uncertainty of her fate." The prosecutor argued that the
evidence revealed signs of struggle and that the serious
injuries to Reid's body belied any notion that Spreitz
did not know what he was doing. The prosecutor further argued
that the fact that Reid defecated on herself revealed that
she was terrified prior to her murder. In sum, the prosecutor
argued that given both the heinous nature of the crime and
the manner in which Reid suffered, a finding in aggravation
that Reid was murdered in an "especially cruel
manner" was warranted.
short recess, the sentencing judge rendered oral findings
addressing the aggravation and mitigation issues. He then
imposed a sentence of death. Following the hearing, the
sentencing judge filed a judgment setting forth written
judge first found one aggravating circumstance- that the
offense was committed in an "especially cruel
manner." Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-703(F)(6). The
judge proceeded to review the "many factors [that were]
submitted in mitigation," ultimately finding five
mitigating circumstances of various levels of significance:
 A mitigating circumstance defense submitted was that the
defendant had an extremely disruptive childhood . . . . The
court finds the home was sub-normal, not even a minimally
healthy one for developing children; and it is obvious the
defendant suffered a disruptive middle childhood-had a
punitive, controlling, cold mother, who he could not please,
no matter what he did.
The defendant in his life turned to substance
abuse-alcohol and some suggestion he was using cocaine and
other drugs. However, the court does not find such is a
mitigating circumstance that impaired his ability to make a
judgment on whether he was acting rightfully or wrongfully in
the death of the victim.
The defendant's history of intoxication is
longstanding. He had been abusing substances for close to ten
years of his life at the time of this offense when he was
twenty-two. Again, the court does not believe that the
substance abuse or intoxication impaired the
defendant's ability and capacity to appreciate the
wrongfulness of his conduct to any significant degree. . . .
The court does not believe intoxication is any sort of
. . .
 The court acknowledges that the defendant has begun a
process of improvement and emotional growth while confined at
the Pima County Jail, where he has taken part in education
programs. Correctional officers have testified he was a
prisoner who caused no problems.
 The age of the defendant at the time of the offense
(twenty-two) is not a mitigating circumstance in and of
itself. Immaturity probably is, but the court does not
believe immaturity was a significant mitigating circumstance.
 The court finds that Mr. Spreitz has no criminal history
of a felony nature-there is no history or propensity for acts
 The court believes the defendant is capable of being
rehabilitated. The court does not know whether he has a good
prognosis for the future, but the court believes he can be
conclusion, the judge found that "the mitigating
circumstances [were] not sufficient to balance the
aggravating circumstances, nor [were] they sufficiently
substantial to call for leniency." He thus imposed a
death sentence as to the first-degree murder conviction.
Spreitz's Appeal and Post-Conviction Proceedings
appealed his conviction and sentence to the Arizona Supreme
Court with the assistance of new counsel. The Arizona Supreme
Court affirmed Spreitz's conviction and sentence after
conducting its own independent review of the
record. In reviewing the mitigating evidence, the
court found four of the five mitigating circumstances that
the sentencing judge had found, declining to find
Spreitz's good behavior while in jail awaiting sentencing
as a mitigating circumstance. Spreitz I, 945 P.2d at
1280-81. The court explained:
 "We agree with the sentencing judge that
defendant's upbringing was subnormal." Id.
 "We also find that the sentencing judge . . .
properly found that his emotional immaturity was not a
significant mitigating factor." Id. at 1281.
 "We agree that the record supports the sentencing
judge's findings that defendant had no previous adult
felony convictions, no prior acts of violence, and
 that the defendant is capable of rehabilitation."
Arizona Supreme Court also added that it considered remorse
as an additional nonstatutory mitigating factor. Id.
court addressed Spreitz's history of alcohol and
substance abuse as follows:
The record demonstrates defendant's longtime substance
abuse problems. We note, however, that defendant's
general problems with substance abuse are not essential to
our decision here. We therefore decline to conclude that
defendant was impaired by alcohol consumption to an extent
that it interfered with his "capacity to appreciate the
wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the
requirements of the law." A[riz]. R[ev]. S[tat]. [Ann.]
§ 13-703(G)(1); see also State v. Medrano, 185
Ariz. 192, 194, 914 P.2d 225, 227 (1996) (citing [State
v.] Stokley, 182 Ariz. [505, ] 520, 898 P.2d
[454, ] 469 ).
Id. at 1280-81. In the only other portion of its
opinion addressing Spreitz's history of alcohol and
substance abuse, the court said:
The sentencing judge found that defendant's ability to
appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct was not impaired
on the night of the murder to any significant extent by
substance abuse, emotional disorders, situational stress, or
by a combination of these. Our review of the record convinces
us that the trial court's finding was proper.
Id. at 1281.
Arizona Supreme Court agreed with the trial court's
aggravation finding that the murder was done in an especially
cruel manner, id. at 1279, and then proceeded to
reweigh the applicable aggravating and mitigating factors,
finding that "the aggravating circumstance of especial
cruelty in defendant's murder of Ruby Reid outweigh[ed]
all factors mitigating in favor of leniency."
Id. at 1282. It affirmed his death sentence.
Id. at 1283. Spreitz filed a petition for a writ of
certiorari, which the United States Supreme Court denied.
Spreitz v. Arizona, 523 U.S. 1027 (1998) (mem).
March 2000, represented again by new counsel, Spreitz filed a
petition for post-conviction relief in the Arizona Superior
Court ("PCR court"). See Ariz. R. Crim. P.
32.1. Spreitz alleged, inter alia, that the
sentencing judge and the Arizona Supreme Court committed
error by failing to consider his history of alcohol and
substance abuse as a nonstatutory mitigating factor apart
from its causal connection to the murder-i.e.,
Eddings error. He also alleged that his appellate
counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the sentencing
judge's Eddings error on appeal to the Arizona
Supreme Court. Spreitz additionally raised several new claims
court denied all of Spreitz's claims and entered an order
dismissing his petition for post-conviction relief. In Part 3
of its order, the PCR court discussed Spreitz's claims of
"nexus-error"-that both the trial court and the
Arizona Supreme Court erred when they failed to consider
Spreitz's longstanding alcohol and substance abuse on the
basis that Spreitz had failed to establish a causal nexus
between the long-term substance abuse and the
murder. The PCR court dismissed the
claim as waived, reasoning that Spreitz had
failed to raise the issue on direct appeal. Nonetheless, the
PCR court addressed the merits of the nexus-error claim in
the course of analyzing Spreitz's argument that his
appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise it. In
doing so, the PCR court explained that the claim failed
[I]t must be demonstrated, under A[riz]. R[ev]. S[tat].
[Ann.] § 13-703(G)(1), that there is a causal link
between the history of alcohol or substance abuse and the
offense itself. E.g., State v. Stokley, 
182 Ariz. [505, ] 523 [898 P.2d 454');">898 P.2d 454, 472 (Ariz. 1995)].
Without some basis for explaining or defining the
individual's behavior at the time of the offense, the
Petitioner's history of alcohol or substance abuse would
be inconsequential (which is exactly what the trial court and
Supreme Court concluded). State v. Kayer, 194 Ariz.
423, 984 P.2d 81 ([Ariz.] 1999).
At times, the court can and should consider an
individual's long-term alcoholism and substance abuse,
usually in conjunction with other factors or diagnosis, as
non-statutory mitigation. However, the impact or effect of
the alcoholism or substance abuse must be substantial and of
such severity that it provides a sufficient basis for
explaining the defendant's conduct, character or ability
to control his behavior at the time of the offense.
As previously discussed, there is no evidence in
Petitioner's case to suggest that he suffered any
long-term effects from his alcohol or drug abuse that
precluded him from controlling his behavior. Petitioner did
not suffer from any cognitive or emotional deficits that
rendered him incapable of controlling his conduct. Therefore,
the trial court did not err in failing to find
Petitioner's history of alcohol or substance abuse as a
separate, non-statutory mitigating factor. [Citation
filed a petition for review in the Arizona Supreme Court
challenging the PCR court's judgment. The Arizona Supreme
Court summarily affirmed the PCR court's merits
determination with respect to Spreitz's Eddings
claims. State v. Spreitz (Spreitz II), 39
P.3d 525, 527 (Ariz. 2002).
filed his federal habeas petition in February 2003. He
alleged in claim seven that the sentencing judge and the
Arizona Supreme Court had both committed nexus-error with
respect to his long-time alcohol and substance abuse, and
that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to argue
the sentencing judge's nexus-error on direct appeal to
the Arizona Supreme Court.
district court denied all of Spreitz's claims. With
respect to the alleged nexus-error by both the sentencing
court and the Arizona Supreme Court, the district court found
the claims procedurally barred, relying on the PCR
court's determination that Spreitz had waived the claims
because he could have raised them on direct appeal but failed
to do so. The district court concluded that Spreitz had
properly exhausted his ineffective assistance of appellate
counsel claim, and thus addressed the alleged nexus-error in
that context, ultimately concluding it was not meritorious.
Accordingly, the district court concluded that
"appellate counsel's failure to raise this issue on
appeal does not constitute ineffectiveness."
Jurisdiction and Standard of Review
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1291 and
2253(a), and review de novo the district court's denial
of a writ of habeas corpus. Poyson v. Ryan, 879 F.3d
875, 887 (9th Cir. 2018). Because Spreitz filed his federal
habeas petition after April 24, 1996, he must satisfy the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
("AEDPA"). Under AEDPA, we may not grant habeas
relief unless the state's adjudication of Spreitz's
claim (1) "was contrary to . . . clearly established
federal law as determined by the Supreme Court," (2)
"involved an unreasonable application of" such law,
or (3) "was based on an unreasonable determination of
the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State
court proceeding." (28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)). "In
making this determination, we look to the last state court
decision to address the claim," White v. Ryan,
895 F.3d 641, 665 (9th Cir. 2018) (citing Wilson v.
Sellers, 138 S.Ct. 1188, 1192 (2018)), which for
Spreitz's nexus-error claim is that of the PCR court.
argues that the PCR court's decision was "contrary
to" Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104 (1982).
"A state court's decision is contrary to clearly
established federal law if it 'applies a rule that
contradicts the governing law set forth in [U.S. Supreme
Court] cases' or arrives at a different result in a case
that 'confronts a set of facts that are materially
indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme]
Court.'" Castellanos v. Small, 766 F.3d
1137, 1146 (9th Cir. 2014) (alteration in original) (quoting
Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)).
"If the state court applies a legal standard that
contradicts clearly established [Supreme Court] law, we
review de novo the applicant's claims, applying the
correct legal standard to determine whether the applicant is
entitled to relief." Id. (citation omitted).