Demirdjian v. Gipson, No. 09-56453 [August 10, 2016]
Mr. Demirdjian alleged ineffective assistance of counsel, when during closing arguments the prosecution repeatedly commented on the defense’s failure to explain key incriminating evidence or use competent evidence to support its exculpatory theories, on the grounds that his attorney should have challenged the prosecution’s statements as either improper comments on his decision not to testify, in violation of Griffin v. California, 380 U.S. 609, 615 (1965), or improper shifting of the burden of proof to the defense. He also alleged that his sentence, two consecutive 25 years to life terms, was a violation of the Eight Amendment as it was a function equivalent of a mandatory life-without-parole sentence on a Juvenile offender, he was 15 at the time of the murder. The Court affirmed as to the ineffective assistance claim as there is a reasonable argument that, because there was no actual prosecutorial error, defense counsel’s decision to rebut the prosecution’s comments directly rather than object at trial or on appeal was adequate, and this strategy did not undermine the reliability of Demirdjian’s conviction. As to his Eight Amendment argument the Court rejected it as his sentence actually allowed for the possibility of parole.