Sanders v. Davis, No. 17-16511 (9th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
In 1982, Sanders was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Sanders’s attorney, Hoover, had never represented a capital defendant before and conducted a minimal penalty phase investigation. Sanders told Hoover that he viewed a life without parole (LWOP) sentence as unacceptable and that he did not want Hoover to present a penalty defense. Hoover presented no evidence and made no argument during the penalty phase.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the denial of habeas relief and remanded for a penalty phase trial. Hoover performed deficiently by failing to perform even a rudimentary investigation into Sanders’s social history, failing to obtain reasonably available records, and failing to ensure that Sanders’s decision to forego a penalty phase defense was informed and knowing. Hoover failed to adequately advise Sanders about the penalty phase. There is a reasonable likelihood that Sanders would have changed his mind had Hoover informed and advised him about the penalty phase, and that there is a reasonable likelihood that at least one juror would have changed her mind and voted to impose an LWOP sentence.