Rainwater Law Group

Effective Criminal Defense

Nasby v McDaniel, No. 14-17313/15-16264 [April 10, 2017]

Nasby v. McDaniel

Nasby appeals from the denial of his habeas corpus petition in the district court. That petition raised “serious constitutional violations based on prosecutorial misconduct, the use of coerced testimony, ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel, and errors in the jury instructions. The Court reversed and remanded because the district court rejected the claims without obtaining or reviewing the record of the relevant proceedings in state court. The district court never obtained or reviewed the transcript of Nasby’s trial or the the transcript of the evidentiary hearing that the state court conducted on collateral review nor did it conduct an evidentiary hearing on Nasby’s claims. “Instead, it simply relied on the facts as described in the Nevada Supreme Court’s opinion denying Nasby relief.” Without reaching the merits of the claims it reversed and remanded finding the district court erred in not reviewing the state court record. The Court stated “Nasby contends that if the role of a federal habeas court were simply to accept on faith the state court’s description of the facts, free from any obligation to review the record on which the state court based its judgment, ‘there would hardly be a reason to have a federal habeas statute at all.’ We agree.” The Court further rejected the State’s cliam that AEDPA prevents a federal habeas court from reviewing the record and obliges it, instead, to accept the state court’s description of facts on faith and, instead, found that the AEDPA demands the opposite. To evaluate wheter a state court unreasonably determined the facts “in light of the evidence’ before it or whether a state court unreasonably applied clearly established law to the petitioner’s case a federal court must first ascertain what evidence was before the state court.


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Weeden v. Johnson, No. 14-17366 [April 21, 2017]

Weeden v. Johnson

Weeden claimed her trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel for refusing to investigate psychological testimony to support her mental state defense and instead called four character witnesses. Her claim was rejected in state court as being a “reasonable strategic decision.” Here, counsel refused to do an evaluation as he was afriad that the prosecution could use it against him. The Court found that “[c]ounsel cannot justify a failure to investigate simply be invoking strategy.” “Under Strickland, counsel’s investigation must determine trial strategy, not the other way around. (citations omitted) Weeden’s counsel could not reasonably conclude that obtaining a psychological examination would conflict with his trial strategy without first knowing what such an examination would reveal.” Further, merely obtaining a report does not require that it be disclosed contrary to counsel’s position. Because Weeden mental condition was this issue here counsel should have investigated it. “Counsel’s performance was deficient because he failed to investigate, a failure highlignted by his later unreasonable justification for it.” The state court’s finding to the contrary was an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court law. The Court conclude that the lack of testimony, as presented to the Court in an affidavit, if presented to the jury “the propability of a different result is ‘sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.’” Reversed and remanded to grant the writ unless Weeden is timely retried.

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