Brief Fact Summary. Defendant in a crime-spree case used an insanity defense, but was found guilty. The defendant’s counsel did not ask for mercy.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A “claim that [a defendant’s counsel] rendered ineffective assistance during his sentencing hearing” under the Strickland rule must show that the law had been applied unreasonably.
Without proof of both deficient performance and prejudice to the defense it could not be said that the sentence or conviction resulted from a breakdown in the adversary process that rendered the result of the proceeding unreliable, and the sentence or conviction should stand.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether the fact that respondent’s counsel did not ask “for mercy after the prosecutor’s final argument, did not subject the State’s call for the death penalty to meaningful adversarial testing” in violation of the Sixth Amendment.
Held. No. Strickland controls because the respondent challenged the counsel’s “failure to adduce mitigating evidence and the waiver of closing argument.” Given that, the Supreme Court noted the generally horrible nature of the crime, and the inherent difficulty for the counsel. Mitigating circumstances had been presented during the trial. As for the waiver, the Court held the Court of Appeals’ application of law “unreasonable” because it did not consider the counsel’s dilemma. “He could make a closing argument and reprise for the jury.