Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, June 10, 2013

Reaves: No prejudice in failing to present voluntary intoxication defense

In Reaves v. Sec., Fla. Dep’t of Corrections, No. 12-11044 (May 30, 2013), the Court reversed the grant of habeas relief to a Florida death row inmate, finding that the district court erred in determining that Reaves suffered “prejudice” as a result of his trial counsel’s failure to present a voluntary intoxication defense.

The Court noted that most of the expert testimony supporting a voluntary intoxication defense would have been inadmissible at Reaves’ retrial. The expert opinions were based not on cocaine use alone, but on years of chronic substance abuse – a factor that would not be relevant under Florida law. In addition, the Court pointed to evidence of premeditation, rejecting the argument that killing a police officer was so clearly ill advised: “people sometimes make bad decisions and do stupid things.”

The Court, however, rejected the State’s attempt to appeal the district court’s grant of an evidentiary hearing regarding ineffectiveness of counsel at the penalty phase. The Court held that this was an interlocutory non-appealable order.