In Newland v. Hall, No. 05-15981 (May 14, 2008), the Court affirmed the denial of habeas relief to a Georgia death row inmate.
The Court rejected the argument that defense counsel was ineffective for failing to introduce in evidence police threats to charge the defendant’s wife with aggravated assault, and murder, to establish that the defendant’s confession was coerced. The Court noted that the defendant waited a full day after hearing the threats before confessing, and, in addition, the wife could have been charged with a crime in connection with the murder.
The Court also rejected the argument that counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate Newland’s background, which would have helped him find mitigating evidence and avoid the death penalty. The Court declined to fault counsel for not uncovering evidence about the defendant’s childhood and neurological disorder, because the defendant himself opted not to have counsel pursue these matters. The Court also declined to fault counsel for failing to rely on these matters at sentencing, noting that counsel’s strategy of portraying the crime as a single aberrant episode was less problematic than relying on a history of disorders.