Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ineffective Assistance Of Counsel Rejected - Death Sentence Upheld

Today, the United States Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of an Alabama man who claimed that his attorney failed to inform the jury at the sentencing phase that he was mentally impaired.  Holly Wood was convicted of murdering his girlfriend by a shotgun blast to her head as she slept.  At the sentencing phase Wood's lawyer told the jury that Wood had no criminal record but failed to inform then that he had an IQ of less than 70 and had been classified as mentally retarded.  A federal judge had thrown out the death sentence on the basis that his attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel.  The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the judge and reinstated the death sentence.  Today the United States Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals and found that Wood had failed to show that his attorneys performance was constitutionally ineffective.  The decision, a 7 to 2 vote, was authored by Judge Sonia Sotomayor.  In her opinion, Judge Sotomayor stated that "Even if it is debatable, it is not unreasonable to conclude that . . . counsel made a strategic decision not inquire further into the information contained in the report about Wood's mental deficiencies and not present to the jury such information."  It seems like the court refused to second guess the strategic decision made by Wood's attorney.

The case is Woods v. Allen, 08-9156.

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