Porter v. McCollum

Facts of the Case

Petitioner Porter was sentenced to death for murder. In post-conviction proceedings, both the trial court and the Florida Supreme Court reserved judgment on counsel’s deficiency at the penalty phase, but ruled that Porter had not been prejudiced by counsel’s failure to investigate and present mitigating evidence of Porter’s abusive childhood, his heroic military service and associated trauma, his long-term substance abuse, and his impaired mental health and mental capacity. The Federal District Court subsequently granted habeas relief, concluding that counsel’s failure to adduce that evidence violated Porter’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel, but the Eleventh Circuit reversed on the ground that the State Supreme Court’s ruling was a reasonable application of

Question

Did the Eleventh Circuit err when it held that a person’s Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel was not violated when his attorney at sentencing failed to bring forward evidence of his heroic war record and other mitigating evidence.

CONCLUSION

Yes. In a per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court reversed the Eleventh Circuit, holding that Mr. Porter’s Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel was violated. The Court reasoned that there was a reasonable probability that Mr. Porter’s sentence would have been different if the sentencing judge and jury had heard the mitigating evidence that Mr. Porter’s attorney failed to uncover or present.

Case Information

  • Citation: 558 US 30 (2009)
  • Granted: Nov 30, 2009
  • Decided Nov 30, 2009