Kemp v. Kelley, No. 15-3849 (8th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254 to petitioner, who was convicted of four counts of capital murder and sentenced to death on each count. The court held that trial counsel was not constitutionally ineffective for failing to adequately investigate and present mitigating evidence related to petitioner's childhood abuse, fetal-alcohol exposure, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In this case, counsel satisfied his obligation under Strickland v. Washington and his decision not to interview distant family members was reasonable. Counsel conducted a thorough investigation and reasonably decided to pursue a theory of imperfect self-defense. Furthermore, counsel's decision to hire an expert to evaluate the effect of petitioner's abusive childhood on his mental health was reasonable in the circumstances and counsel did not fail to act while potentially powerful mitigating evidence stared him in the face.