The Texas Tribune posts, "Supreme Court To Hear Texas Death Row Inmate's Case," by Maurice Chammah.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear the case of Texas death row inmate Carlos Trevino in a case that could determine whether a defendant in Texas has a right to “competent” attorney during habeas appeals — a challenge to a criminal conviction that considers whether the defendant's constitutional rights were violated during his trial.
In March, the nation’s highest court decided in Martinez v. Ryan that the failure of state habeas lawyers to argue that their client's trial counsel was ineffective should not keep the defendant from being able to make that argument later in the appeals process.
The question in the Trevino case is whether the court's decision in Martinez applies in Texas, said Trevino’s lawyer, Warren Alan Wolf. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decided in November 2011 that since the laws governing habeas appeals in Texas are different from those in Arizona, the Martinez decision does not apply.
Lyle Denniston posts, "Court grants four cases, seeks government views," at SCOTUSblog.
Among the cases that the Court did grant, the case of Trevino v. Thaler (11-10189) is of major importance for criminal law. The petition, by lawyers for a Texas death-row inmate, Carlos Trevino, argued that lower federal courts have denied prisoners like him the opportunity to test their convictions and death sentences in federal court on the theory that their defense lawyers were deficient during state court proceedings. In the Supreme Court’s decision last March in Martinez v. Ryan, the Court made a significant exception to the long-standing rule that a state prisoner cannot pursue a challenge in federal habeas court if the inmate failed to bring up the challenge first in state court.
In the Martinez case, the Court said that inadequate performance by a defense lawyer in state court can be used as an excuse for failing to have raised that issue in state court, at least in situations when a state did not allow such a claim until after a conviction had become final and the inmate pursued post-conviction remedies in state court. When state laws bar such a claim until the post-conviction stage, the Court ruled, the procedural bar to raising that issue in federal habeas is set aside and a habeas judge can consider the ineffectiveness claim.
Lower federal courts ruled, however, that Texas courts sometimes allow a state inmate to bring up an ineffective lawyer claim prior to a post-conviction stage, so the Martinez decision does not apply in Texas, including death-penalty cases there.
"Justices to See If Late Habeas Claim Is Justified," is Barbara Leonard's report for Courthouse News Service.
A death row inmate will get a new shot at habeas relief after the Supreme Court agreed Monday to take up his case in light of precedent that infuriated Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this year.
Carlos Trevino was convicted in 1997 of murdering 15-year-old Linda Salinas.
After the trial court sentenced Trevino to death, the inmate unsuccessfully applied for habeas relief at the state level, then filed a petition in federal court, but stayed that proceeding to exhaust another option in state court. When that maneuver failed, Trevino stayed his federal habeas proceeding a second time to exhaust another claim in state court.
Since Texas failed for over two years to appoint Trevino a lawyer in connection to the new claim, the federal court lifted the stay and resumed proceedings.
A federal judge denied Trevino's eight claims for federal habeas corpus relief, but it granted the inmate a certificate of appealability (COA) on three of the issues.
Trevino had argued that the court should stay further proceedings until the Supreme Court resolved a pending question about whether ineffective assistance of state habeas counsel in failing to raise a meritorious claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel established cause for a default in state habeas proceedings.
The 5th Circuit refused to stay Mr. Trevino's appeal for this purpose and would not grant COAs on the five claims that the lower court rejected in November 2011.
Four months later, the Supreme Court decided in Martinez v. Ryan that ineffective assistance of state habeas counsel, mirroring that which Trevino has described, could establish cause for the default of a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel.