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Defense Counsel Ineffective: REVERSED

Danny Jones v. Charles Ryan Docket: 18-99005, Opinion Date: November 7, 2022. Petitioner asserted that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective by failing to request a mental health expert in advance of the sentencing hearing. The Ninth Circuit held that the state court record demonstrates that trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective by failing to secure a defense mental health expert, and that, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 2254(d)(1), the Arizona Supreme Court’s contrary conclusion was an unreasonable application of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), and its progeny. Holding that the state post-conviction review (PCR) court’s decision was also based on an unreasonable determination of the facts under 28 U.S.C. Section 2254(d)(2), the panel agreed with Petitioner that (1) the PCR court employed a defective fact-finding process when it denied PCR counsel’s funding request for a defense neuropsychological expert, effectively preventing the development of Claim 1; and (2) the state court’s failure to hold a hearing on Claim 1 resulted in an unreasonable determination of the facts. In Claim 2, Petitioner asserted that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective by failing to seek neurological or neuropsychological testing prior to sentencing. The panel wrote that counsel’s failure to promptly seek neuropsychological testing ran contrary to his obligation to pursue reasonable investigations under Strickland, and in particular, his obligation to investigate and present evidence of a defendant’s mental defect. Thus, the panel filed an amended opinion, denied a petition for panel rehearing, and denied on behalf of the court a petition for rehearing en banc and remanded to the district court with instructions to issue the writ.


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