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Death Sentence Reversed for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Noguera v. Davis Docket: 17-99010, Opinion Date: July 20, 2021. Petitioner, convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in California state court, was granted habeas corpus relief on numerous claims under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The State appeals and petitioner cross-appeals the district court's denial of habeas corpus relief on his constitutional challenge to California's financial-gain special circumstance. The Ninth Circuit concluded that petitioner was deprived of effective assistance of counsel at the penalty phase by counsel's unprofessional failure to investigate and present mitigating evidence pertaining to petitioner's familial history and his mental health. The panel also concluded that petitioner has shown Strickland prejudice as a result of that deficient performance. Furthermore, the California Supreme Court's denial of petitioner's claim was an unreasonable application of Strickland and, thus, petitioner is entitled to relief under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act as to the sentence of death. The panel reversed the judgment of the district court granting the habeas petition as to petitioner's conviction, affirmed the judgment of the district court granting the petition as to petitioner's death sentence, affirmed the judgment of the district court denying the petition on petitioner's claims based on a financial-gain special circumstance, and remanded to the district court to enter an appropriate order.

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