Case Study: Strickland V. Washington

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Strickland v. Washington 466 US 668 (1984)

II. Facts & Procedural History -

In September 1976, during the course of ten days, the respondent, Strickland, planned and committed three groups of crimes, including three brutal stabbing murders, torture, kidnapping, severe assaults, attempted murders, attempted extortion, and theft. His two accomplices were arrested, and the respondent surrendered to police. He provided a voluntary statement and confessed to the third murder. He was indicted by the State of Florida for kidnapping and murder and was appointed an experienced criminal attorney to represent him.

As he was pursing pretrial motions and discovery for the respondent’s defense, the attorney learned he confessed to the first
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He also spoke on the phone with respondent’s wife and mother. He attempted once, unsuccessfully to meet with them; however, he did not follow up a second time. Additionally, the counsel did not seek out additional character witnesses for respondent. The counsel’s conversations with his client led him to believe he did not need to request a psychiatric examination because he did not believe the respondent had psychological problems. In a state of hopelessness, the counsel decided not to present nor look for further evidence concerning respondent’s character and emotional state, because he believed it would not overcome the evidentiary effect of the respondent’s confessions to the crimes. The counselor also judged that he should rely on the plea colloquy for evidence about respondent’s background and his claim of emotional stress. The counselor believed the plea colloquy provided sufficient information to the Court about these subjects. He also believed that by not introducing new evidence on these subjects, he prevented the State from cross-examining the respondent on his claim and from introducing its own psychiatric evidence. He also was successful in excluding other damaging evidence from the sentencing hearing, including the introduction of the respondent’s criminal history. He also judged that a pre-sentence report would likely be more damaging than helpful because it…show more content…
The respondent then sought collateral relief in the state court on numerous grounds, specifically among them was his assertion that counsel had rendered ineffective assistance at the sentencing proceeding. The respondent challenged his counsel’s assistance in six respects. He claimed that counsel was ineffective because he failed to move for a continuance to prepare for sentencing, failed to request a psychiatric report, failed to investigate and present character witnesses, failed to seek a pre-sentence investigation report, failed to present meaningful arguments to the sentencing judge, and failed to investigate the medical examiner’s reports or cross-examine the medical experts. The respondent then filed a habeas corpus petition in Federal District Court seeking relief on numerous grounds, including the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. The District Court denied relief and found that the counsel made judgment errors in failing to further investigate mitigating evidence, but the respondent 's sentence did not result from any prejudice from any of the counsel’s judgment errors. However, the Court of Appeals reversed, ruling that the Sixth Amendment provided criminal defendants with a right to counsel who provides "reasonably effective assistance given the totality of the circumstances." The Court of Appeals outlined the standards for judging whether a defense

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