Supreme Court rules against death row inmate on ineffective lawyer claim

Supreme Court rules against death row inmate on ineffective lawyer claim

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] ruled Monday that a US district judge did not abuse his discretion in refusing to allow an Arizona death row inmate to pursue an ineffective assistance of counsel claim after the inmate refused to allow his lawyer to present mitigating evidence at his sentencing hearing. In Schriro v. Landrigan [Duke Law case backgrounder], the defendant told the trial judge that he did not wish his lawyer to present mitigating evidence during sentencing, but then later attempted to obtain post-conviction relief because his lawyer failed to conduct further investigation into mitigating circumstances.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to reverse the Ninth Circuit's decision [PDF text] in the case. The majority wrote:

In cases where an applicant for federal habeas relief is not barred from obtaining an evidentiary hearing by 28 U. S. C. §2254(e)(2), the decision to grant such a hearing rests in the discretion of the district court. Here, the District Court determined that respondent could not make out a colorable claim of ineffective assistance of counsel and therefore was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing. It did so after reviewing the state-court record and expanding the record to include additional evidence offered by the respondent. The Court of Appeals held that the District Court abused its discretion in refusing to grant the hearing. We hold that it did not.

Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Thomas, along with a dissent [text] from Justice Stevens. AP has more.