Ben-Sholom v. Ayers

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 04-02-2012
  • Case #: 09-99014
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge McKeown for the Court; Circuit Judges Clifton and Bybee
  • Full Text Opinion

A defendant who fails to show prejudice by counsel’s failure to present a state of mind defense does not establish a right to habeas relief, and therefore is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel during the guilt-phase of trial.

Ben-Sholom was sentenced to death after being convicted of burglary, robbery, and felony murder. The district court granted habeas relief for his sentence based on ineffective assistance of counsel, however, his appeal stemmed from the district court’s denial of an evidentiary hearing to determine whether he received ineffective assistance of counsel during the guilt-phase of his trial. As the Government did not dispute that Ben-Sholom received ineffective assistance of counsel, the Court only focused on whether Ben-Shalom established prejudice as a result of counsel’s deficient performance. In arguing he was prejudiced, Ben-Sholom based his claim on psychiatric testimony that he was unable to form the requisite intent to commit these crimes and his defense counsel’s failure to present a state of mind defense. The Court found that this evidence was not sufficient to counter his two taped confessions detailing the crimes. The Court also noted that the testimony from the doctors did not explain why Ben-Sholom gave the confessions, including his admission that he helped to plan the robbery. The Court found, based on the confessions and Ben-Sholom’s inability to provide any other evidence in addition to the psychiatric testimony, the district court did not err in denying the evidentiary hearing. AFFIRMED.

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