SCOTUS Hears Oral Arguments in Death Penalty IAC

This week, the Court will hear oral arguments in Wood v. Allen, Supreme Court No. 08-9156. At issue in Wood is whether counsel was ineffective by failing to investigate evidence of the Defendant’s mental impairments. The district court granted relief, concluding that a “finding by the state courts that a strategic decision was made not to investigate or introduce . . . evidence of mental retardation is an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the clear and convincing evidence presented in the record.” The court found that Wood’s less experienced lawyer was left unsupervised to investigate mitigating evidence; moreover, the failure to introduce evidence of Wood’s mental impairments stemmed from his counsel’s inexperience rather than a strategic decision. The major issue in Wood is whether, the AEDPA (the law governing modern federal habeas corpuses) required the federal court to provide greater deference to the Alabama state court.