Schriro v. Landrigan

PETITIONER: Dora B. Schriro, Director, Arizona Department of Corrections
RESPONDENT: Jeffrey Timothy Landrigan, aka Billy Patrick Wayne Hill
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Central District of California

DOCKET NO.: 05-1575
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2006-2009)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 550 US 465 (2007)
GRANTED: Sep 26, 2006
ARGUED: Jan 09, 2007
DECIDED: May 14, 2007

ADVOCATES:
Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. - argued the cause for Respondent
Kent E. Cattani - argued the cause for Petitioner

Facts of the case

Jeffrey Landrigan was convicted of first degree murder. During sentencing, Landrigan's counsel attempted to call witnesses to testify to Landrigan's disadvantaged upbringing and good character. However, Landrigan opposed his lawyer's decision to present this mitigating evidence, and the witnesses were never called. Landrigan was sentenced to death. He appealed, arguing that his counsel had been ineffective. Landrigan claimed that he had wanted the lawyer to present mitigating evidence showing Landrigan's genetic predisposition to violence.

After state courts rejected the claim as frivolous, Landrigan filed a petition for habeas corpus in federal District Court. The District Court ruled against Landrigan, but he finally prevailed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Despite the high degree of deference to state courts required by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the state court had been unreasonable to uphold Landrigan's death sentence. Landrigan's lawyer should have presented the mitigating evidence, the Court ruled, and the omission had rendered counsel ineffective.

Question

1) Did the Ninth Circuit err by holding that the state court unreasonably determined the facts of the case when it found that Landrigan "instructed his attorney not to present any mitigating evidence at the sentencing hearing"?

2) Was the Ninth Circuit correct to hold that counsel for Landrigan's failure to present mitigating evidence during the sentencing phase rendered him objectively ineffective, even though Landrigan had opposed the admission of the evidence?

Media for Schriro v. Landrigan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 09, 2007 in Schriro v. Landrigan

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 14, 2007 in Schriro v. Landrigan

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Justice Thomas has the opinion of the court today in 05-1575, Schriro versus Landrigan.

Clarence Thomas:

This case comes to us on a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

An Arizona Jury found respondent Jeffery Landrigan guilty of felony murder and sentenced him to death.

Following an unsuccessful direct appeal and state post-conviction proceedings, Landrigan filed this federal habeas application alleging that his counsel was ineffective for failing to explore additional grounds for mitigation of death sentence.

The District Court concluded that Landrigan could not make out even a colorable claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, it therefore refuse to grant Landrigan and evidentiary hearing and denied his application.

The en banc Court Of Appeals reversed holding that the District Court abused its discretion in denying Landrigan an evidentiary hearing.

In an opinion filed with the clerk today, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

We hold that a Federal District Court does not abuse its discretion by refusing to grant an evidentiary hearing when the record from the State Court proceedings clearly demonstrates that an applicant cannot prove facts that would allow the District Court to grant habeas relief.

In this case, Landrigan’s actions during sentencing make it absolutely clear that he would have undermined the presentation of any mitigating evidence that his attorney might have uncovered.

At sentencing Landrigan refused to allow witnesses to testify on his behalf when the trial judge enquired about Landrigan’s refusal, Landrigan stated that he did not want any mitigating evidence presented when his attorney attempt to tell the judge what mitigating evidence have you planned to present, Landrigan interrupted several times in a disruptive manner.

Finally, Landrigan told the judge, “If you want to give me the death penalty just bring it on, I am ready for it.”

Because he would have prevented the introduction of any mitigating evidence, Landrigan cannot now show that his counsel’s failure to uncover further mitigating evidence caused him any prejudice.

On this record the District Court did not abuse this discretion by refusing to grant an evidentiary hearing.

In addition, to State Courts’ determination that Landrigan’s substantive claims were frivolous and meritless, was not an unreasonable application of this court’s precedent in Wiggins versus Smith.

Neither Wiggins nor any other case from this court has addressed the situation in which a defendant actively interferes with counsel’s efforts to present mitigating evidence to a sentencing court.

Finally, the Court of Appeals also held that Landrigan’s decision not to present mitigating evidence was not informed and knowing.

But as Landrigan’s counsel conceded, we have never imposed an informed and knowing requirement up on the defendant’s decision not to introduce mitigating evidence.

Even if such an requirement existed Landrigan has not pointed to anything in the record that indicates his decision was not informed and knowing.

Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer have joined.