Willamette Law Online

Oregon Supreme Court


Montez v. Czerniak

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 03-20-2014
Case #: S059138
Balmer, C.J., for the Court; Walters, J.; Baldwin, J.; Riggs, S.J.; and Durham, S.J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/S059138.pdf

Post-Conviction Relief: In post-conviction proceedings, petitioner bears the burden of proving inadequate assistance of counsel. Counsel’s trial strategy must be unreasonable, without appropriate consideration for risks and benefits, for petitioner to prevail.

Petitioner appealed his denial of post-conviction relief first to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed, and then to the Supreme Court on claims related to constitutionally inadequate assistance of counsel. Petitioner was convicted in 1988 for aggravated murder and was sentenced to death after a 1992 sentencing retrial. In 1997, Petitioner filed for post-conviction relief, which was denied in 2005.  Petitioner argued counsel failed to investigate and present mitigating evidence during sentencing, including evidence of sexual abuse, his neurological history, and other miscellaneous mitigating factors. The Court held that counsel’s conduct did not fall outside the range of reasonable professional assistance. Counsel actively investigated possible mitigating factors, presented them effectively, and consulted with and retained experts. Furthermore, counsel’s strategic choices were “made with appropriate consideration of the risks and benefits,” and were not made unreasonably. The Court concluded the trial court did not err in denying post-conviction relief. Affirmed.