Brewster v. Hetzel, No. 16-16350 (11th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for a writ of habeas corpus based on trial counsel's ineffective assistance by failing to object, or move for a mistrial, at any point during the deadlocked jury deliberations. Petitioner claimed that the total force and effect of the two trial judges instructing the jury over and over again that it must keep deliberating after the jury declared over and over again that it was unable to reach a verdict, was coercive.
Because the claim was not adjudicated on the merits in the state court proceedings, the court need not defer to the decisions of the state courts here. The court held that the failure of petitioner's counsel to object and to move for a mistrial, as the coercive circumstances piled up, was prejudicial. Furthermore, trial counsel's failure to object and move for a mistrial was deficient performance for Strickland purposes.