That's the title of an editorial published in today's New York Times.
Robert Wayne Holsey, on death row in Georgia for killing a police officer, is seeking a new sentencing hearing because he received ineffective counsel. He should get one. His own lawyer told a Georgia trial court reviewing the case that he “probably shouldn’t have been allowed to represent anybody” while he was ostensibly providing a defense.
The lawyer said that he drank a quart of vodka every night during the trial and that he was also preparing to defend himself against possible disbarment for stealing client funds. Not surprisingly, the trial court ordered a new sentencing hearing, saying that “no one can seriously believe that the petitioner received the constitutional guarantees of the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel.”
Astonishingly, two other courts have since disagreed in rulings that seem equally contemptuous of defendants’ rights to effective counsel. The State Supreme Court said that Mr. Holsey failed to show that the trial would have come out differently if his lawyer had done his job properly. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled 2 to 1 that Mr. Holsey failed to prove the State Supreme Court’s decision was “unreasonable.”
The dissent from that decision explains why both rulings are wrong. At Mr. Holsey’s trial, the defense made only cursory mention of the beatings he suffered as a child and the fact that he had been judged mentally retarded — mitigating circumstances that could have changed the outcome. Georgia requires a unanimous vote to impose the death penalty; given the evidence, one or more jurors might have voted otherwise.
The 11th Circuit opinion and dissent in Holsey v. Warden is available in Adobe .pdf format.
"Court upholds cop killer’s death sentence," is Bill Rankin's Atlanta Journal-Constitution report. It appeared in Saturday's paper.
The federal appeals court has upheld a death sentence against man who killed a sheriff’s deputy, even though the condemned inmate’s lead lawyer drank a quart of vodka every day during trial.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, in a 2-1 decision issued Thursday, said that even though Robert Wayne Holsey’s trial lawyers did not do a competent job, their deficient performance did not prejudice the outcome of the trial. Holsey sits on Georgia’s death row for fatally shooting Baldwin County Deputy Will Robinson after an armed robbery of a convenience store in December 1995.
Holsey’s appellate lawyers noted that his lead trial lawyer, Andrew Prince, drank a quart of vodka every night of Holsey’s trial because he was about to be sued and prosecuted for stealing client funds. During Holsey’s appeal, Prince testified that he “probably shouldn’t have been allowed to represent anybody” because of his condition.
In its ruling, the 11th Circuit said the key question was not whether Holsey’s lawyers were ineffective. It was whether their deficient performance prejudiced the outcome to the point there was a reasonable probability Holsey would not have been sentenced to death.
Judge Ed Carnes, writing the majority opinion, said the abundant aggravating factors — such as the fact Holsey killed a deputy to avoid arrest and had a prior armed robbery conviction — outweighed any additional mitigation evidence Holsey’s lawyers could have presented to the jury had they been doing their job.
Judge J.L. Edmondson concurred with the decision, but he indicated it was a close call as to whether the poor performance of Holsey’s lawyers prejudiced the outcome of the trial.
In dissent, Judge Rosemary Barkett said the jury never learned that Holsey was subjected to abuse so severe, frequent and notorious that his neighbors called his childhood home “the torture chamber.” Holsey’s mother beat him with an extension cord, shoes and a broom and would hold his head under the bathtub faucet, Barkett wrote, also citing testimony that the house was infested with roaches and reeked of urine and rotting food.
Had the jury heard more about Holsey’s “horrific child abuse,” Barkett wrote, there is a substantial probability he would not have been sentenced to death.
The Macon Telegraph reports, "Execution possible in 2013 for man convicted of slaying Baldwin deputy." It's by Amy Leigh Womack.
A man sentenced to death for the 1995 shooting death of a Baldwin County sheriff’s deputy could be put to death as early as summer 2013, said Fred Bright, district attorney for the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit.
A panel of three judges from the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals have denied relief for Robert Wayne Holsey, the man convicted in the slaying of deputy Will Robinson, Bright said.
Holsey’s lawyers had argued he received ineffective assistance from his trial attorneys during the sentencing phase of his trial, according to the ruling issued Sept. 13.
Holsey has until Oct. 4 to file a petition requesting that the full court hear his case. If he’s denied or if the court rules against him, he has 90 days to file a request that the U.S. Supreme Court hear his case, Bright said.
If he’s denied by the country’s highest court, his last chance for relief is to be granted clemency by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, he said.
Related posts are in the ineffective assistance of counsel category index.
Proportionality review under Georgia state law has been an issue in past death penalty cases