Gulbrandson v. Ryan, No. 07-99012 (03-18-13) (Ikuta with Rawlinson; partial dissent by Nelson)
The 9th affirms the denial of a capital petition. It held that no IAC occurred because the decisions not to call the petitioner at sentencing for mitigation was tactical. The decision and failure to call the mental health expert to testify about the petitioner's mental state at time of the brutal murder was not IAC because the testimony was cumulative. Nelson dissented from this, arguing that the decision not to call the expert warranted an evidentiary hearing.
Poyson v. Ryan, No. 10-99005 (03-22-13) (Fisher with Ikuta; partial concurrence/partial dissent by Thomas)
This is an Arizona FPD case. In a capital habeas, the 9th examines whether the Arizona Supreme Court's applied a causal nexus between mitigation evidence (mental illness and childhood) and the offense. If it did so, it would be unconstitutional. The nexus cannot act as a screening or a weighing for mitigation. The 9th finds that the record is ambiguous, and although the court looked for a nexus, it is unclear whether it actually applied it. As such, under AEDPA, deference is due. Dissenting, Thomas would find that the Arizona Supreme Court did in fact employ a nexus between the crime and mitigation and therefore violated Eddings and was unconstitutional. There was, to Thomas, no other way to read the record.