Willamette Law Online

United States Supreme Court Certiorari Granted


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Trevino v. Thaler

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: October 29, 2012
Case #: 11-10189
Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 678 F.Supp.2d 445 (2009) (unpublished)
Full Text Opinion: http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/unpub/10/10-70004.0.wpd.pdf

Habeas Corpus: Whether a state court procedural defect acts to bar a federal habeas court from hearing a substantial claim of ineffective assistance at trial.

Petitioner was sentenced to death and, while his final application for writ of habeas corpus was pending in state court, filed a petition for habeas corpus relief in federal district court claiming that he had been ineffectively represented by counsel during the sentencing phase of his trial.

Both the state and federal writs were denied, and Petitioner filed an appeal of the federal denial of writ with the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The court of appeals found that Petitioner’s claim for ineffective assistance of counsel was dismissed on “independent and adequate state grounds” and was procedurally defaulted. The court of appeals also found that Petitioner failed to establish that his procedural default was excusable under the Strickland v. Washington test which requires a defendant to establish both that his counsel’s performance was deficient and that the deficiency prejudiced the defendant, and affirmed the district court’s order denying habeas relief.

On appeal, Petitioner argues that under the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Martinez v. Ryan a procedural default should not bar a federal habeas court from hearing his ineffective assistance claim at trial. In Martinez, the Court held that when state law requires claims for ineffective assistance to be raised in an initial review collateral proceeding, a procedural default will not bar a federal habeas court from hearing a substantial claim of ineffective assistance at trial if there is a lack of—or ineffective—counsel in that proceeding.