IAC Claims

The Federal Docket

Shinn v. Martinez Ramirez (SCOTUS, May 2022)

In a 6-3 opinion, the Supreme Court held that there is no right to counsel in state post-conviction proceedings and, as such, a petitioner’s ineffective assistance claim must be evident on the face of the state court record, rather than developed through an evidentiary hearing.

Brown v. Davenport (U.S. Supreme Court, April 2022)

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that a federal court reviewing a state court’s denial of a habeas petition must apply the standards set forth under AEDPA and the Supreme Court’s holding in Brecht v. Abrahamson, where the Court held that a state prisoner must show that an error had a “substantial and injurious effect or influence” on his trial. AEDPA, on the other hand, sets forth a standard that is more difficult to meet–the state prisoner must show that the state court’s judgment was “contrary to” or an “unreasonable application” of “clearly established federal law.”

Accordingly, state prisoners challenging their convictions in federal court will not only have to show error or ineffective assistance of counsel at the trial level and error at the appellate level, they will also have to show prejudice under Brecht and that the appellate courts that affirmed the judgment did contrary to, or in an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law.

United States v. Freeman (4th Cir. January 2022), EN BANC

Sitting en banc, the Fourth Circuit held that defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing when her attorney failed to lodge meritorious objections to the PSR and in fact waived any objections at sentencing over the defendant’s concerns. The decision was notable since the Court held there was ineffective assistance and prejudice on direct appeal, without an intervening evidentiary hearing, based on the face of the record.

United States v. Gardner (5th Cir. October 2021)

The Fifth Circuit vacated a district court’s order denying a defendant’s request to withdraw his guilty plea. The defendant had alleged that had wanted to file suppression motions and that he would not have pleaded guilty but for his then-attorney telling him the time for filing motions was after the change of plea hearing. The Court held that the defendant had alleged sufficient facts that, if true, would have established ineffective assistance of counsel.

Roderick Lewis v. Dushan Zatecky (7th Cir. April 2021)

In a 2-1 opinion, the Seventh Circuit reversed the denial of Roderick Lewis’s 2254 motion and remanded his case for re-sentencing. The Court held that the defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel when his lawyer at sentencing only said he was “going to defer to Mr. Lewis if he has any comments. I don’t have anything to add.” The Court further held that this was one of those rare instances where prejudice is presumed pursuant to SCOTUS’s decision in U.S. v. Cronic, since trial counsel’s silence at sentencing “went beyond a failure to conduct adversarial testing; it was an announcement of abandonment.”

United States v. Precias Freeman (4th Cir. March 2021)

The Fourth Circuit vacated a drug defendant’s sentence for two reasons. First, it held that, despite there having been no hearing where sentencing counsel testified, the record was sufficient to establish that defendant received ineffective assistance when her counsel waived meritorious objections to the guidelines that would have resulted in a lower range and where he put his efforts into getting her in a drug program despite not knowing the program’s requirements for admission. The Court also held that the defendant’s 17-year sentence was substantively unreasonable where the sentencing court failed to consider her severe opioid addiction and that her sentence was significantly longer than those of similarly-situated defendants across the country.

Jeffery Bridges v. United States (March 7th Cir. 2021)

The Seventh Circuit remanded a defendant’s 2255 motion for an evidentiary hearing, holding that the defendant had made a sufficient showing that he may have received ineffective assistance of counsel based on his lawyer’s failure to argue that his Hobbs Act robbery was not a crime of violence under the career offender provision of the sentencing guidelines. While the Seventh Circuit had not yet decided whether Hobbs Act robbery was a crime of violence at the time of the defendant’s sentencing, other circuits had, the categorical approach under the Guidelines was well-known, and this was enough to warrant at least a hearing to determine whether the defendant’s counsel failed to reasonably investigate the issue before the defendant’s sentencing.

United States v. Gregory Olson (9th Cir. February 2021)

While denying a defendant’s appeal from a 2255 motion, the Ninth Circuit suggested the Sixth Amendment right to counsel can apply in certain cases before there has been an indictment filed. Here, the Court rejected claims by a defendant who alleged his lawyer had not communicated a pre-indictment offer to him after he received a target letter.

United States v. Jason Harriman (8th Cir. August 2020)

The Eighth Circuit upheld a defendant’s conviction of murder-for-hire, denying entrapment as an affirmative defense under the de novo standard of review because the defendant did not produce sufficient evidence of inducement. The Court also affirmed the district court’s denial of motions for new counsel and new trial, holding the proper standard of review is for abuse of discretion.

Andrus v. Texas (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2020)

In a per curiam opinion, a majority on the Supreme Court vacated a defendant’s death sentence and held that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective based on his failure to perform mitigation investigation, putting up mitigating evidence that backfired by bolstering the state’s case, failing to investigate the state’s aggravating evidence, and failing to present significant mitigating evidence that he could have discovered.

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