Recent Martinez developments
Posted on: 9/12/2014 08:02:48 AM by Peoples
In Canales v. Stephens, ___ F.3d ___, 2014 WL 4290612 (5th Cir. Aug.29, 2014), a prison killing case, the Fifth Circuit (Prado, with Jolly and Davis)  reversed the district court’s denial of relief on a procedurally defaulted claim of ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) at sentencing and remanded for consideration of the claim pursuant to Martinez and Trevino.  The claim alleged that trial counsel failed to thoroughly investigate and present mitigation evidence.  Canales further alleged that state habeas counsel failed to conduct the mitigation investigation necessary to raise the claim due to counsel’s mistaken belief that funding was capped.  The panel agreed with Canales that the performance of state habeas counsel fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.  Turning to the question of whether there was “some merit” to the trial IAC claim, the panel noted that trial counsel admitted having conducted no mitigation investigation, relying instead on evidence that Canales was a “gifted artist” and “a peacemaker in prison.”  The panel then looked to the evidence that trial counsel could have obtained through a mitigation investigation – evidence of “an extensive history of physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect.” After setting forth some details of the abusive background, the panel stated that this history “led Canales to abuse drugs and alcohol, ‘hook[] up with the wrong people,’ and begin committing crimes.”  On this record, the panel found that the IAC at sentencing claim had “some merit.”  The panel concluded that trial counsel performed deficiently by failing to conduct a mitigation investigation with no strategic basis for the omission, and not due to any instruction or obstruction from Canales.  Regarding prejudice, again the panel found “some merit.” Although there was evidence to support a finding of future dangerousness, the panel was “not convinced that evidence is enough to say Canales’s claim is not substantial.”   Noting, inter alia, that Canales has not yet had the chance to develop the factual basis for the claim because it had previously been held to be procedurally defaulted, the panel remanded the claim to the district court for a determination of whether Canales can establish prejudice as a result of trial counsel’s deficient performance and, if so, “to address the merits of his habeas petition on this claim.”  It is left to the district court to decide whether an evidentiary hearing is appropriate. As to Canales’ defaulted claim of IAC at the guilt phase, the panel affirmed the denial of relief because the claim was not substantial.  

On remand from the Supreme Court for further consideration in light of Martinez, the Ninth Circuit (Paez, with M. Smith; partial dissent by Tallman) reversed the denial of three procedurally defaulted guilt-related IAC claims and remanded to the district court to determine in the first instance whether the claims are substantial and whether post-conviction counsel was ineffective for failing to raise them.  Woods v. Sinclair, ___ F.3d ___, 2014 WL 4179917 (9th Cir. Aug. 25, 2014).  The panel rejected respondent’s argument that Martinez did not apply to cases from Washington, explaining: “The Washington rule, by limiting the evidence on direct appeal to the record . . . poses the same practical barrier to raising IAC claims as the Texas rule at issue in Trevino.”   Although in its initial decision the panel had found that §2254(d) precluded relief on two of the three defaulted IAC claims, in remanding them to the district court the majority of the panel noted, inter alia, that with an appropriate showing Woods could expand the record and/or receive an evidentiary hearing on the claims.  Tallman dissented from the remand, contending that it was impossible for Woods to establish prejudice “in the face of the incriminating evidence against him.”  Tallman also concluded that Woods could not show that trial counsel performed deficiently as to some of his claims.  

On August 19, 2014, the Ninth Circuit remanded four Arizona cases to district courts to reconsider defaulted ineffective assistance of counsel claims in light of Martinez v. RyanDjerf v. Ryan, 08-99027; Hooper v. Ryan, 08-99024; Jones v. Ryan, 08-99033; Salazar v. Ryan, 08-99023.