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Harrington v. Richter

United States Supreme Court
562 U.S. ___ (2011)


Facts

Richter (defendant) and Christian Branscombe were charged with the murder of Patrick Klein and the attempted murder of Joshua Johnson, among other charges. At trial, the prosecution claimed that Klein was shot and killed lying on a living room couch. The defense asserted that Klein and Johnson had been shot in self defense and that Klein was shot in a bedroom doorway, and was moved to the couch later. At the scene of the crime there was a pool of blood in the bedroom doorway. The prosecution called blood evidence experts to testify regarding the blood. One expert testified that given the blood patterns on Klein’s face, it was unlikely that he had been moved to the couch. The other expert testified that a blood sample taken from the pool of blood at the doorway could be Johnson’s blood, but not Klein’s. Richter’s attorney cross-examined these experts and brought out certain weaknesses in their testimony. The jury convicted Richter. The California Court of Appeals affirmed. The California Supreme Court denied a petition for review. Subsequently, Richter petitioned the California Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus. Specifically, Richter claimed that his attorney’s assistance was ineffective because the attorney did not consult blood evidence experts in the preparing Richter’s defense. The California Supreme Court denied Richter’s petition. Richter then filed a petition for habeas corpus in federal district court. The district court denied the petition and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) affirmed. The Ninth Circuit, however, granted a rehearing and reversed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

Concurrence (Ginsburg, J.)

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