Scott v. Ryan

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 08-01-2012
  • Case #: 11-99002
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam; Chief Judge Kozinski; Circuit Judges Farris and Bea
  • Full Text Opinion

A claim for ineffective assistance of counsel will not be upheld if an attorney fails to present evidence that does not support a theory of defense, the legal outcome is unlikely to be different, and there is no prejudice to the defendant.

Roger Scott was sentenced to death after being found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping. Scott appealed the district court’s denial of his habeas corpus petition on the grounds of ineffective counsel, and sought remand to state court for a new sentencing hearing. Scott contended that at the time of the murder, his mental functions were affected by a series of prior head injuries, and his attorney Roland Steinle failed to present this evidence at original sentencing. The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded for an evidentiary hearing to rule on the merits of the habeas petition. During the evidentiary hearing, Scott presented new reports and testimony from defense witnesses regarding the impact of neurological deficits on his behavior. The court denied all relief, holding that although Steinle failed to further investigate Scott’s medical history, it was neither ineffective assistance of counsel nor prejudicial. Under Strickland v. Washington, counsel is ineffective if, inter alia, “there is reasonable probability that, but for counsels unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Steinle’s defense strategy was that “Scott was an unwitting and easily manipulated ‘dupe’ due to a personality disorder.” Scott’s full confession to the police demonstrated that his active participation in the crime was deliberate. The Court held that new evidence of Scott’s brain damage was “insufficient to overcome the egregious nature” of the crime. Further, Steinle’s decision not to present this evidence was not prejudicial. AFFIRMED.

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