Melvin Newman v. Michael Atchinson, No. 12-3725 (7th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
After Newman, then 16 years old, turned himself in to police and was arrested, his mother told Newman’s attorney that her son was a “special child” who attended a “school for the handicapped, the mental school.” She gave him a two-inch-thick stack of educational and psychological records reflecting Newman’s lengthy history of severe mental and cognitive deficits, including a diagnosis of mental retardation from the Social Security Administration and a psychologist’s report indicating that Newman’s IQ was 62. Newman was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 47 years’ imprisonment. Following unsuccessful appeals, Newman filed a state post-conviction petition. The Illinois Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal. Newman filed a federal habeas petition, 28 U.S.C. 2254, alleging that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to investigate his fitness for trial and failing to seek a fitness hearing. The district court held an evidentiary hearing days and determined, on the basis of the state court record, that the Illinois courts unreasonably concluded that Newman was not prejudiced by counsel’s failure to investigate his fitness to stand trial and that counsel’s failures to investigate known deficiencies in Newman’s mental capacity and to raise the fitness issue constituted ineffective assistance. The Seventh Circuit affirmed.