King v. Westbrooks, No. 13-6387 (6th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
King confessed to an acquaintance and to a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent that, after drinking large amounts of alcohol, ingesting LSD, and Quaaludes, and engaging in sexual intercourse, King drove Smith to a wooded area and shot her in the back of the head. King’s trial counsel suspected that King had brain damage as a result of a childhood head injury and substance abuse. An expert report concluded that King did not manifest evidence of psychotic thought process nor organic brain syndrome, but recommended an electroencephalogram and psychological testing. The expert later testified that an electroencephalogram was not necessary; the court denied a motion for such testing. Defense counsel suggested in his opening statement that King’s intoxicated state influenced his actions. The defense changed strategy after King’s former girlfriend testified about his violence against her. There was testimony about King sniffing gasoline “several times a week.” The jury found King guilty of first-degree murder and recommended death by electrocution, which the trial court imposed. King’s appeals and petitions for state post-conviction relief, based on ineffective assistance of counsel, were unsuccessful. The Sixth Circuit affirmed denial of a federal habeas petition, rejecting arguments that counsel was ineffective for failing to present testimony about King’s intoxication at the time of the murder and failing to investigate adequately King’s mental health and to obtain expert assistance in a timely manner.