Rainwater Law Group

Effective Criminal Defense

​Elmore v Sinclair, No. 12-99003 [April 1, 2015]

Elmore v Sinclair

Upholding a denial of a petition because the state court's conclusions were not unreasonable. The petitioner entered a guilty plea to a murder charge, without any promises, and had a death penalty sentencing trial. The defense strategy involved presenting evidence of the early plea, as acceptance of responsibility, and remorse for his acts. Counsel conducted a limited mental health evaluation of his client but did not present any such evidence at the hearing. The state court found that defense counsel's not presenting mental health evidence at the sentencing hearing was a reasonable strategy. The Court denied additional claims: 1) a shackling claim that the state court finding of a lack of prejudice given the short time of shackling and the facts of the crime were not unreasonable findings and 2) an impartial jury claim denial was not unreasonable. A concurring opinion by Hurwitz states "I doubt that [Elmore] received competent representation" in light of the facts that this was his attorney's first capital case; he entered a plea without any agreement on sentencing; his lawyer did not object to his shackling; his attorney's one hour mitigation hearing; and counsel's failure to investigate Elmore's possible organic brain damage. In spite of that under the "doubly deferential" standard for determining prejudice, he concurs in the denial of the petition.

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