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Yarborough, Warden v. Gentry

United States Supreme Court
540 U.S. 1 (2003)


Facts

Gentry (defendant) was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon for stabbing his girlfriend. Gentry claimed that the accident was accidental. The girlfriend testified for the prosecution and said she could not remember the details of the attack, but she was then presented with testimony from a preliminary hearing, at which she claims she did remember that Gentry had his hand around her throat. A security guard gave somewhat inconsistent testimony about seeing Gentry attack the girlfriend. Gentry himself testified and said that he had been convicted only once before, which was a false statement. He admitted that he did not know that a plea bargain counted as a conviction. The prosecutor gave a closing statement in which she accused Gentry of telling the jury a “pack of lies.” The defense followed with its closing statement, which was somewhat disconnected and disjointed in nature, but made the general point that since the jury, like the defense and prosecution, was not at the scene of the crime, everything mentioned in court was only speculation, and no one could truly tell who was lying and who was telling the truth. The jury convicted Gentry. Gentry argued that the defense’s closing statement deprived him of effective assistance of counsel. The California Court of Appeal rejected that claim, and the Supreme Court of California denied review. Gentry’s petition for habeas relief was denied by the district court, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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