The Ninth Circuit held that trial counsel's investigation, preparation, and execution of their chosen insanity defense fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. The Ninth Circuit wrote that (1) trial counsel's most significant error was failing to call as a witness—or consult at all—the expert the trial court had appointed to assess Rogers's competency for trial and sanity at the time of the offenses; (2) this error was compounded by the inadequate preparation of counsel's chosen mental health experts; (3) trial counsel performed deficiently by not preparing to rebut the State's mental health expert.(4) trial counsel's failure to explain the elements of the Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI) defense to the jury in their opening statement fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.
The Ninth Circuit found prejudice because a reasonable likelihood existed that Rogers's NGRI defense would have succeeded if trial counsel had performed effectively. Although trial counsel's performance was replete with errors, the Ninth Circuit emphasized that the State's staffing and funding of Rogers's case contributed to the errors.