Judy Showers v. Jeffrey Beard, et al, No. 09-2185 (3d Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
The defendant was convicted of the first degree murder of her husband. His death was caused by a lethal dose of liquid morphine. The defense argued that the death was a suicide. The court relied on circumstantial evidence and testimony by a pathologist that the substance is capable of being masked. After obtaining new counsel and exhausting direct appeals in state court, the defendant unsuccessfully pursued a collateral state claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. The federal District Court granted a petition for habeas corpus. The Third Circuit affirmed, ordering a new trial. Distinguishing the Supreme Court's 2011 decision, Harrington v. Richter, the court noted that counsel failed to consult any one of three experts suggested by the defense psychiatrist as being able to discuss whether the substance can be masked and support the defense of suicide. Defense counsel misunderstood the facts and failed to ask questions that would have supported a claim of suicide. The state court's finding that counsel sufficiently dealt with the issues in closing arguments was unreasonable and the decision not to raise ineffective assistance on direct appeal was a reasonable tactical decision.