Supreme Court Review-Preview-Overview

An up-to-date outline of Supreme Court criminal cases
is available here. It covers pending cert grants and decisions from the past and current Terms. Other "cites" of interest are available here.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Rompilla: Ineffective capital counsel

In Rompilla v. Beard, No. 04-5462 (June 20, 2005), the Supreme Court held that capital counsel’s assistance in the penalty phase was constitutionally ineffective when he failed to examine the material he knew the prosecutor would rely on as evidence of aggravation. Counsel failed to examine the court file on Rompilla’s prior felony convictions – a file which was readily available. This was objectively unreasonable, and counsel’s consultation with the defendant’s and his family was not a sufficient substitute. The Court held that the lawyer’s lapse prejudiced the defendant, because the court record would have unearthed mitigation leads – such as the defendant’s mental disorders and organic brain damage and childhood problems probably related to fetal alcohol syndrome.