Mann v. Ryan

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 12-29-2014
  • Case #: 09-99017
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Chief Judge Thomas for the Court; Circuit Judge Reinhardt; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Circuit Judge Kozinski
  • Full Text Opinion

Professional assistance of counsel is ineffective if it is unreasonable under all of the circumstances, and counsel’s professional assistance during the sentencing phase of the trial is constitutionally deficient if reasonably available mitigating evidence is not adequately investigated or presented.

In 1994, Eric Owen Mann was convicted and sentenced to death for two first-degree murders in Arizona state court. In post-conviction proceedings, Mann sought relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel during the guilt and sentencing phases of his trial, alleging that his counsel failed to call him as a witness during the trial and to investigate and present mitigating evidence. The state court denied Mann relief for failure to establish prejudice by counsel’s performance. Mann petitioned for writ of habeas corpus. In 2009, the district court denied Mann’s petition. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that Mann failed to show that his counsel’s performance was constitutionally deficient during the guilt phase because not calling Mann as a witness was a “constitutionally adequate” strategic decision and thus reasonable under Strickland v. Washington, and because there was no explicit promise by counsel to the jury that Mann would testify, counsel could not have broken a promise. However, the panel held that because the state court wrongly applied the “more-likely-than-not” standard overruled by Strickland when denying new sentencing proceedings based on newly learned evidence, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act did not bar Mann from asserting ineffective assistance of counsel at the sentencing phase of the trial based on prejudice. The panel therefore concluded that counsel’s professional assistance was constitutionally deficient for failure to investigate or present reasonably available mitigating evidence, whereby counsel waited until after Mann’s conviction to investigate his background and never finished the investigation, even after additional time was granted. Had Mann’s counsel adequately performed, there was a reasonable probability that a judge would find that mitigating factors did not necessitate a sentence of death. AFFIRMED in part; REVERSED in part.

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