Wong v. Belmontes

PETITIONER: Wong
RESPONDENT: Belmontes
LOCATION: Superior Court, Stockton Courthouse

DOCKET NO.: 08-1263
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2009-2010)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 558 US 15 (2009)
GRANTED: Nov 16, 2009
DECIDED: Nov 16, 2009

Facts of the case

A California state court convicted Fernando Belmontes of murder and sentenced him to death. After exhausting his state court remedies, Mr. Belmontes filed for habeas corpus relief in a California federal district court arguing that at sentencing his Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel was violated. The district court denied the petition.

On appeal, the U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and granted the petition. The court held that Mr. Belmontes did suffer ineffective counsel at sentencing. The court reasoned that Mr. Belmontes' attorney failed to prepare and present sufficient evidence to humanize Mr. Belmontes that may have mitigated his sentence.

Question

Did the Ninth Circuit err when it held that petitioner's Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel was violated when his attorney at sentencing failed to bring forward sufficient evidence to humanize him and other mitigating evidence.