Best Defender Bytes:

April 5, 2011

Ninth Circuit Opinion 04-05-11

Samayoa vs. Ayers, No. 09-99001 (4-4-11)(Silverman with Kozinski; dissent by Reinhardt).  An opinion, especially in habeas, that starts with the gruesome recounting of the facts usually does not bode well for the petitioner; it especially doesn’t bode well when the issue is IAC at sentencing, with AEDPA deference.  Here, the petitioner brutally murdered a mother and her two year old daughter during a burglary.  He also had a history of violent acts.

At trial, and sentencing, the theme was brain damage, and mental illness, resulting in diminished capacity.  A few family members testified and a few guards about his behavior in prison.  In post-conviction, investigation uncovered a physically abusive, sexually abusive, violent, and deprived childhood.  Trial counsel did no family investigation.  The defense experts used moreover were arguably incompetent (inventing non-existent psychological conditions, making simple math errors in calculations, and even mislabeling an upside-down diagram of the brain).

The state courts denied relief; the federal court accepted ineffectiveness, but found no prejudice given the brutality of the crime and further aggravators.  The 9th affirms.  The opinion goes through the evidence, and stresses that under AEDPA, deference is afforded to the state court’s determination.  Such a decision was not unreasonable.  The crime’s ugliness, to the 9th, seemed paramount.  The best chance to save the petitioner was the brain damage, and the jury and state courts were not persuaded.  Neither was the 9th.  In dissent, Reinhardt railed against the incompetence of counsel and defense experts.  Defense counsel had no excuse not to investigate the petitioner’s upbringing, and family history.  The performance of counsel, and the deficient experts, doomed him.  To Reinhardt, actual evidence of years of abuse and a horrific childhood would be more persuasive than weak evidence of brain damage and equivocal testimony by family and guards.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress