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Trevino v. Thaler

569 U.S. 413 (2013)

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Trevino v. Thaler

United States Supreme Court

569 U.S. 413 (2013)

Facts

Trevino (defendant) was sentenced to death after being convicted of murder. Trevino’s trial attorney presented little mitigating evidence during the penalty phase. Trevino appealed his conviction with representation from a new, court-appointed attorney, but he did not make a claim that his trial counsel was ineffective at sentencing though Texas law permitted it. (Trevino’s new counsel had not yet received a trial transcript at the time of appeal, so raising an ineffective-assistance claim at this stage was impracticable.) The Texas criminal appellate court denied Trevino’s appeal. Trevino was appointed a third attorney to seek state collateral relief. These claims for collateral relief included a claim that trial counsel was ineffective during sentencing. However, the claims did not include a claim that the trial counsel was ineffective for failure to investigate and present mitigating evidence. The trial court denied the claims for collateral relief. The Texas criminal appellate court affirmed the trial court. Trevino was appointed a fourth attorney to seek federal habeas corpus relief in the district court. This fourth attorney claimed that Trevino’s trial counsel was ineffective for failure to investigate and present mitigating evidence, which was the first time this claim was raised. This attorney uncovered substantial information that could be considered mitigating evidence. The federal district court stayed its proceedings so that Trevino could bring this newly developed claim in state court. The state court rejected this claim, holding that Trevino had procedurally defaulted because the claim had not been raised during the initial proceedings for state collateral relief. The district court denied Trevino’s claim. The court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Breyer, J.)

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