Divided Ninth Circuit overturns murder conviction the Supreme Court had affirmed
Concluding that “our confidence in the outcome of [the] trial is undermined,” a 2-1 Ninth Circuit panel today grants habeas corpus relief to a defendant whose death sentence the California Supreme Court had affirmed in 1988. The Supreme Court also denied several habeas petitions. (Here, here, and here.) In Hernandez v. Chappell, the federal appeals court — under pre-AEDPA standards of review (see here and here) — faults the defendant’s trial counsel for not presenting a diminished capacity defense based on mental impairment, because the attorney “was ignorant of the law.”
For other recent Ninth Circuit habeas decisions in California death penalty cases, see here, here, and here.