US v. Pete, No. 14-10370 (4-11-16)(Berzon with Fletcher and Bea). This is a Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct 2455 (2012)(juveniles) resentencing case. The underlying offense was a felony murder, second degree murder, and sexual assault. The defendant, 16 at the time of the offense, was transferred to adult, tried and convicted. His appeal was denied. In light of Miller, however, the district court resentenced -- to 708 months. Before the resentencing, the court had denied counsel's request for funding for a neuropsychologist to evaluate the defendant and to develop mitigating mental health evidence. This request was denied.
On appeal, the 9th held that the court abused its discretion in denying the indigent defendant's request for such an expert under 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(e). The 9th found that a reasonable attorney would have asked for an evaluation; and the evaluation could have been powerful mitigating evidence. The youth of the defendant meant that he could have changed and matured, and the information could have informed his rehabilitation.
This opinion can be used by CJA counsel in appointment of experts and investigators. The emphasis is on how such experts and assistance goes to mitigation and individualized sentencing.
Congrats to AZ CJA counsel Atmore Baggot on appeal and to Dan Drake at the resentencing.
The decision is here: