Reversal of Death Sentence: Counsel Failed to Adequately Investigate Defendant's Social History/Mental Health, Even Though Defendant Not Forthcoming and Opposed Investigation, Not Disturbed

Woodford v. Douglas, 316 F.3d 1079 (3d Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 124 S. Ct. 49 (2003)

Perhaps reflecting its decision in Wiggins (described above), the Supreme Court declined to review a Ninth Circuit ruling that a capital defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights when counsel failed to adequately investigate defendant's social history and mental health for information that could have been used as mitigating evidence at sentencing.  The defendant thus was entitled to have his death sentence vacated even though he had not been forthcoming with information about his social history and was opposed to an investigation of his mental health.  The Ninth Circuit ruled trial counsel had a duty to investigate a defendant's mental state if there was evidence to suggest, as was the case here, that the defendant was impaired and this duty was not absolved by the defendant's refusal to cooperate when there was a significant and readily discoverable alternative source of information available....

Found in DMHL Volume 23 Issue 1