Davis v. Sharp, No. 17-6225 (10th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Nicholas Davis was convicted by an Oklahoma jury of first-degree murder, for which he was sentenced to death. He sought federal habeas relief. In relevant part, he asserted that both trial counsel and appellate counsel were constitutionally ineffective in failing to adequately investigate his mental health and discover that he suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Specifically, in Davis' trial PTSD claim, he alleged that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to investigate, develop, and present evidence, at both the guilt and sentencing stages, that he suffered from PTSD. In his appellate PTSD claim, he alleged that appellate counsel was ineffective in failing to investigate, develop, and raise this aspect of trial counsel’s alleged ineffectiveness on appeal. He further argued that appellate counsel was likewise ineffective in failing to investigate and present “[a] complete mental[-]health claim . . . on appeal.” The district court ruled that these claims (regarding depression) were unexhausted and subject to an anticipatory procedural bar. The Tenth Circuit, however, affirmed denial of habeas relief. The Court found Davis' Depression Claims were subject to an anticipatory procedural bar. And because the Appellate PTSD Claim lacked merit, it did not excuse the procedural default of the Trial PTSD Claim or constitute an independent basis for granting the writ. Furthermore, the Court denied Davis’s request for an expanded COA to appeal the district court’s order denying relief on three additional claims he presented in his section 2254 petition because reasonable jurists could not debate the district court’s resolution of those claims.