Walker v. Martel

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 03-07-2013
  • Case #: 11-99006
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Silverman for the Court; Circuit Judges Graber and Gould
  • Full Text Opinion

Under Strickland v. Washington , it was not “objectively unreasonable” for the California Supreme Court to conclude that a defendant’s conviction or sentence would have been different had counsel objected to the use of limp-causing leg restraints.

In 1980, after being convicted of first-degree murder and three counts of assault with intent to commit murder along with various other charges, Marvin Walker was sentenced to death. During trial, Walker wore concealed knee restraints that caused a limp. Upon his conviction, he argued that his counsel should have objected to his wearing of these braces because he was prejudiced. The California Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling on direct appeal. Walker filed a federal habeas petition, and the district court, under Strickland v. Washington, held that the California Supreme Court was “objectively unreasonable” in concluding that Walker’s trial counsel’s performance was not constitutionally deficient when he failed to object to the brace because the law regarding shackling was “well established” at the time. The Ninth Circuit held that under Strickland, given the strength of the evidence against Walker along with the seriousness of his crimes, the California Supreme Court could reasonably conclude that the braces would not have changed the outcome of the trial or sentence. The panel remanded the case for further proceedings on other pending issues. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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