Mitchell v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 06-19-2015
  • Case #: 11-99003
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Silverman For The Court; Circuit Judges Reinhardt and Wadlaw
  • Full Text Opinion

A defense counsel may not be rendered ineffective if they made attempts at a defense strategy.

Lezmond Mitchell was convicted for two counts of first degree murder, carjacking resulting in death, and multiple counts of robbery. Mitchell, along with an accomplice, kidnapped Alice Slim and her nine year old granddaughter. They stabbed Slim 33 times, cut the granddaughter's throat, and subsequently threw a twenty pound rock on her. Later, they went back to the scene, tried manipulating the bodies to prevent identification, and buried them in a hole. Subsequently, Mitchell and two others robbed a liquor store, in which one accomplice shot the store manager in the head. Due to this crime involved a carjacking resulting in death, the Major Crimes Act was applicable, and the federal nexus of interstate commerce is present to give federal jurisdiction. The district court convicted Mitchell. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reviewed whether Mitchell’s motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 claiming that his defense counsel was ineffective was a reversible error. Mitch argued that counsel was ineffective for failing to argue an intoxication defense during the guilty phase, and for failure to show Mitchell’s mental and social history. First, the panel agreed with the district court stating that the counsel was not below the professional standard because the lawyers did attempt to pursue an intoxication defense, but Mitchell denied that he was intoxicated. Second, the panel explained that Mitchell’s counsel investigated possible theories of mitigation by investigating his social history and mental health, as well as making attempts to present that evidence. AFFIRMED.

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