Death Sentence Overturned Because Defendant's Lawyers Did Not Examine Case File from an Earlier Conviction That Would Have Indicated Defendant's Diminished Mental Capacity

Rompilla v. Beard, 125 S. Ct. 2456 (2005)

A defendant charged with murder and facing a possible death sentence has a right to present mitigating evidence that weighs against the death penalty.  This can include evidence of a mental illness or mental retardation that demonstrates  the defendant's diminished capacity and reduced criminal responsibility. The U.S. Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), established that a defendant has a Sixth Amendment right to "effective assistance" of counsel in discovering and presenting this evidence during the sentencing phase.  In Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 51O (2003), the Court indicated that this right required the defendant's attorney to diligently explore potentially mitigating mental health evidence...

Found in DMHL Volume 25 Issue 1