Jones v. Shinn, No. 18-99006 (9th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
The State appealed the district court's grant of federal habeas relief to petitioner, a state prisoner sentenced to death for the sexual assault, abuse, and felony murder of a four year old girl.
The Ninth Circuit held that 28 U.S.C. 2254(e)(2), which precludes evidentiary hearings on claims that were not developed in state court proceedings, did not prohibit the district court from considering the evidence adduced at the Martinez v. Ryan hearing to determine the merits of petitioner's underlying ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) claim. The panel explained that when a district court holds an evidentiary hearing to determine whether a petitioner's claim is excused from procedural default under Martinez, it may consider that same evidence to grant habeas relief on the underlying claim.
The panel also held that the district court did not err in determining that the assistance provided by petitioner's counsel was constitutionally deficient where he failed to perform an adequate pretrial investigation into whether the victim's injuries were sustained during the time she was with petitioner, and petitioner has demonstrated prejudice due to counsel's failures. In regard to Count Four, this failure only affected the jury's determination that petitioner had acted intentionally or knowingly, but not his underlying guilt on the lesser included offense of reckless misconduct. Therefore, the panel affirmed the grant of habeas relief, but vacated the district court's remedy, remanding for further proceedings.