Martinez v. Ryan

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: October 4, 2011
  • Case #: 10-1001
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court Below: 623 F.3d 731 (9th Cir. 2010)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether a state criminal defendant has a federal constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel on the first post-conviction relief (PCR) appeal that regards an ineffective assistance of counsel claim when state law prohibits raising a direct appeal for ineffective assistance of trial counsel but has a state-law right to raise such a claim in a first post-conviction proceeding.

Petitioner was convicted on two counts of sexual conduct with a person under the age of fifteen. At trial, Petitioner’s appointed counsel failed to challenge the testimony of an expert witness who presented evidence about theories of victim recantation. During Petitioner’s direct appeal, appointed appellate counsel filed a form notice of PCR without Petitioner’s consent. Counsel asserted that, upon file review, no colorable claims were found. Counsel did not assert the ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim, nor did counsel discuss the PCR notice with Petitioner and only provided him with notice via letter, which was written in English, after filing the PCR notice. Petitioner had informed the appellate counsel that he did not read English and that Petitioner did not understand what was happening. With the assistance of pro bono counsel, Petitioner filed a timely Petition for PCR arguing trial counsel was ineffective in violation of his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Arizona court system found that, under Arizona law, Petitioner was barred from bringing the ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim because Petitioner did not raise such claim in his first PCR claim of right. The federal Court of Appeals ruled that Petitioner did not have a constitutional right to effective assistance of his first post-conviction relief counsel with regard to his federal ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim, and that the claim therefore was procedurally defaulted.

Petitioner argues that procedurally, the state rule that precluded the effective assistance of counsel claim, frustrates the exercise of Petitioner’s federal right to PCR review of Petitioner’s right to effective assistance of counsel at both trial and first post conviction review of right. Petitioner further argues that the failure of the appellate counsel to raise a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel created cause and prejudice for any procedural default of Petitioner’s federal claims in the first PCR review.

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