Gentry v. Sinclair

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 08-28-2012
  • Case #: 09-99021
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Judge Clifton for the Court, Circuit Judges Fisher and Paez
  • Full Text Opinion

First, when a claim has been presented to a state court and not remedied it becomes exhausted. Second, when a claim has been tried on substantive ground, even though it has not been tried on procedural grounds, it is deemed to have been adjudicated on the merits. Third, when there is proof that counsel seeks additional resources for further evidence, even if the evidence is not used; it is reasonable to resolve that there was not deficient performance by counsel.

Jonathan Lee Gentry, petitioner, was convicted of aggravated first degree murder, with a finding of the aggravating circumstance of committing the murder to protect or conceal the identity of a person committing a crime, for the murder of 12-year-old Cassie Holden. He was sentenced to death. He petitioned and was denied a writ of habeas corpus; he appealed. First, the Court held that Gentry exhausted the claim referring to his trial counsel being ineffective at the penalty phase for failing to investigate Gentry's psychological history. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) mandates that a federal court may not grant a writ of habeas corpus based on any claim that was adjudicated on the merits by a state court. Gentry’s Personal Restraint Petition (PRP) described Gentry’s psychological history, giving the Washington Supreme Court a chance to remedy for ineffective assistance during the penalty phase. The Washington Supreme court resolved the claim based on substantive, rather than procedural background, since it was shown that the psychological evidence did not support Gentry’s claim. Therefore, the claim was exhausted and adjudicated on the merits by the Washington Supreme Court. Second, the Court agreed with the denial of habeas corpus because the disposition of the case was not unreasonable when applying federal law. Deficient performance by counsel happens when such performance falls below an objective standard of reasonableness; a petitioner must show that there is reasonable probability that the result would have been different. Gentry’s counsel got court permission for a psychologist to evaluate Gentry. Even though there was no proof that the evaluation happened, Gentry failed to prove that it was counsel was ineffective because counsel did not neglect Gentry’s psychological issue. According to the Court, it is probable that the results of the examination were not favorable to the claim because both Gentry and counsel were silent about them. Therefore, the application of the federal law regarding deficient performance for failure to present mitigating evidence about a psychological exam was reasonably resolved by the Washington State Court. Denial of habeas as to the remainder of Gentry's claims was also affirmed. AFFIRMED.

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