Sully v. Ayers

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 08-06-2013
  • Case #: 08-99011
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Thomas for the Court; Circuit Judges Berzon and N.R. Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

To obtain federal habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, a petitioner must show that the state court unreasonably applied clearly established federal law.

Anthony Sully was convicted of six counts of first-degree murder and received the death penalty. He subsequently filed habeas petitions in state and federal courts challenging his convictions and sentence. The federal habeas petition was stayed while the state claims were exhausted. The district court entered summary judgment against Sully. Sully's habeas petition was filed after April 24, 1996, so the panel applied 28 U.S.C. § 2254, which does not allow a prisoner to obtain federal habeas relief for state claims adjudicated on the merits unless the decision was: "(1) 'contrary to' clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court, (2) 'involved an unreasonable application of' such clearly established law, or (3) 'was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts' in light of the record before the state court." Sully claimed his counsel was ineffective because he did not properly investigate, claim, or present adequate witnesses or evidence to support Sully's incompetence to stand trial or present mitigating circumstances for the penalty phase. The district court held, and the Ninth Circuit agreed, that Sully did not establish that the California Supreme Court's ruling was an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. Sully also claimed his counsel was ineffective for failing to impeach certain witnesses. However, the panel affirmed the district court’s holding that counsel was not ineffective and that the impeaching evidence Sully claimed should have been used would have been ineffective. The district court also granted summary judgment on various claims alleging error by the trial court, all of which the panel found would constitute harmless error, if any at all. Finally, the panel found no abuse of discretion by the district court in denying Sully leave to submit an additional briefing and in denying his request for an evidentiary hearing under § 2254(d). AFFIRMED.

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