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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Four New Death Cases: Schriro, Smith, Brewer & Abdul-Kabir

In Schriro v. Landrigan, No. 05-1575 (May 22, 2007), the Supreme Court held that the district court did not err in denying an evidentiary hearing regarding whether counsel gave ineffective assistance at a capital sentencing, when the defendant opposed counsel putting on mitigating evidence and interrupted counsel when he attempted to do so. The Court found that regardless of what further mitigating evidence counsel might have discovered, the defendant would have opposed counsel’s attempt to present it to the jury. Hence, no ineffective assistance occurred.
In Smith v. Texas, No. 05-11304 (Apr. 25, 2007), Brewer v. Quaterman, No. 05-11287 (Apr. 25, 2007), and Abdul-Kabir v. Quaterman, No. 05-11284 (Apr. 25, 2007) the Supreme Court reversed the denial of federal habeas relief to three Texas death row inmates. In each case, contrary to Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302 (1989), the Texas courts had sentenced a defendant to death without giving the jury instructions enabling them to give effect to a defendant’s mitigating evidence. In each the Fifth Circuit found the error harmless because other instructions enabled the jury to give effect to the mitigating evidence introduced by the defendant . Reversing, the Supreme Court held that the Texas court holdings were clearly contrary to Penry.