Smith v. Davis, No. 18-70015 (5th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
The district court held that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' application of Witherspoon v. Illinois and its progeny was unreasonable because the state trial court violated petitioner's constitutional right to an impartial jury under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments when it excluded a member of the venire for having moral, conscientious, or religious objections to the death penalty. The State appealed.
The Fifth Circuit held that the state court proceedings concerning the exclusion of the member as a juror did not result in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States. Furthermore, the state court proceedings did not result in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding. However, the district court did not give appropriate deference to the TCCA's determination that the trial court did not violate the federal constitution when it removed the member for cause. The court also held that petitioner was not entitled to habeas relief on this claim of ineffective assistance of counsel where, even assuming counsel's performance was deficient, petitioner failed to establish prejudice. Finally, petitioner failed to cite any decision of the Supreme Court holding that the severely mentally ill are ineligible for execution. Accordingly, the court reversed in part to the extent that the district court conditionally granted habeas relief to petitioner on his first claim of relief and otherwise affirmed the judgment.