Quincy Allen v. Michael Stephan, No. 20-6 (4th Cir. 2022)

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Justia Opinion Summary

Petitioner was convicted of two capital murders and sentenced to death in a South Carolina state court. During the penalty phase, the government and defense experts agreed that Petitioner suffered persistent childhood abuse; they also agreed that he had at least one mental illness—rumination disorder—and disagreed as to another—schizophrenia. Yet, the sentencing judge concluded that Petitioner was not conclusively diagnosed as mentally ill and found no “conclusive proof of mitigating circumstances.” Petitioner filed the instant federal petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 2254, raising several claims. The district court dismissed his petition, and Petitioner appealed.
 
The Fourth Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded with instructions that the district court issue a writ of habeas corpus unless the State of South Carolina grants Petitioner a new sentencing hearing within a reasonable time. The court concluded that the state court’s conclusion that the sentencing judge “considered Petitioner’s mitigation evidence as presented” was an unreasonable determination of the facts and its conclusion that the sentencing judge gave “proper” consideration was contrary to clearly established federal law. The court wrote it has grave doubt that the state court’s errors did not have a substantial and injurious effect.

Primary Holding
The Fourth Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded with instructions that the district court issue a writ of habeas corpus unless the State of South Carolina grants Petitioner a new sentencing hearing within a reasonable time.

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