June 21st, 2017
US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Opinions
Young v. Davis
Opinion Date: June 20, 2017
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
Petitioner was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The Fifth Circuit granted a certificate of appealability on two issues: (1) a Mills claim that the omission of a jury instruction—required under Texas law—that jurors need not agree on what particular evidence they found mitigating created a substantial risk that the jurors may have mistakenly believed mitigating evidence needed to be accepted unanimously and (2) that petitioner's trial counsel's failure to object to the missing instruction constituted ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington. In regard to the Mills claim, the court held that, given the record, there did not exist a reasonable likelihood or substantial probability that reasonable jurors may have thought they were precluded from considering any mitigating evidence unless all 12 jurors agreed on the existence of a particular such circumstances. Therefore, the state courts did not unreasonably apply Mills. Assuming arguendo that failing to object to the absent jury instruction was deficient performance, defendant failed to show prejudice. Accordingly, the Texas state courts' application of Strickland to defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claims was not unreasonable. The court affirmed the denial of habeas relief.
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