David Martinez Ramirez and Barry Lee Jones were convicted of separate capital crimes in Arizona state courts and sentenced to death. After being denied post-conviction relief by the Arizona courts, they each filed petitions for federal writs of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, claiming for the first time that their respective trial counsel had conducted inadequate investigation and thereby failed to turn up readily available exculpatory evidence. Both petitions were denied by the district courts, but reversed and remanded by the Ninth Circuit. The State of Arizona then appealed, and the Supreme Court consolidated the cases for its review
The Supreme Court found for the state and functionally held that ineffective assistance of appellate counsel was not sufficient “cause” under the rule set by Coleman to overcome the procedural default of a claim. To respect dual sovereignty, federal habeas review of state convictions should be an “extraordinary remedy” only, and the doctrine of procedural default is an important part of ensuring this. There is no constitutional right to counsel in state post-conviction proceedings, so a prisoner “bears the risk” that their attorney will fail to develop the state-court record sufficiently to allow for federal habeas review.
Certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Opinion by Thomas, joined by Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett
Dissent by Sotomayor, joined by Breyer and Kagan
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