Wood v. Allen - Oral Argument - November 04, 2009

Wood v. Allen

Media for Wood v. Allen

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 20, 2010 in Wood v. Allen

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 04, 2009 in Wood v. Allen

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We will hear argument next in Case 08-9156, Wood v. Allen.

Mr. Scanlon.

Kerry A. Scanlon:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

Holly Wood was sentenced to death after his lawyers failed to investigate or present to the jury evidence of his undisputed mental deficiencies.

That evidence was readily available to any reasonably competent attorney, and it offered powerful mitigation which had a reasonable probability of changing the sentence from death to life without parole.

No one on the sentencing jury had any idea that Mr. Wood had any mental deficiency, much less that he had an IQ between 59 and 64, which means he ranks in the lowest one percent of the total population.

Antonin Scalia:

Of course, if they had introduced that evidence on behalf of the defendant, there would have come in the report they had gotten from -- who was it, Dr. Kirkland?

Was that his name?

Kerry A. Scanlon:

That's correct, Justice Scalia.

Antonin Scalia:

Which said that, although he -- he indeed was in the lower range of mental agility, this did not affect his ability to discern right from wrong.

Kerry A. Scanlon:


Antonin Scalia:

He was not -- the Kirkland report was not a favorable report for the defendant.

Kerry A. Scanlon:

--Well, the Kirkland report was not -- first of all, was only about his mental competency and whether he had a mental disease or defect that prevented him from knowing right from wrong.

It was an incompetency and insanity report.

This Court has made it clear in Atkins and other cases that mentally retarded persons often know the difference between right and wrong and are competent to stand trial.

What that report did have is a very strong lead that he had a borderline intellectual functioning.

That is different from whether or not he is able to go to trial or whether he--

Antonin Scalia:

Well, but it didn't just say borderline intellectual function.

It went on to say that did not affect his ability to perceive that he was -- he was doing something wrong here.

Kerry A. Scanlon:

--Each of the statements--

Antonin Scalia:

You know, if it had not added that I would have said, oh, yeah, let's -- let's pursue this further.

But they -- it seems to me they made an intelligent decision There was nothing here that was going to help them and there might be stuff that would hurt them.

Kerry A. Scanlon:

--Justice Scalia, everything in the Kirkland report that talked about his ability was his ability to go to trial, that he was competent and that he knew the difference between right and wrong.

Those findings in the Kirkland report that talk about that relate only to that issue.

It's an entirely different issue, which the courts have made clear, whether someone has significant mental deficiencies that will -- will -- is the kind of evidence that garners sympathy from the jury.

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.:

Why is this question properly before us in this case?

The argument that you seem to be making, and it's an argument to which you devote a lot of your brief, seems to be that the -- the State courts unreasonably applied Strickland to the performance of the attorneys at the penalty phase.

Now, that is a, a (d)(1) argument, 2254(d)(1).

But the two questions on which cert were granted have to do with findings of fact.

So they have to do with (d)(2) and (e)(1) and not (d)(1) at all.