The Daily Digest, 2/25/11

IAC, Reasonable Trial Strategy, Foregoing Use of Condition
Smith v. Dickhaut, 2011 WL 576073 (D.Mass. 2011)
Petitioner was tried and convicted of first-degree murder. His conviction and denial of a new trial were affirmed. He now petitions for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing ineffective assistance of his trial counsel. His counsel presented a diminished capacity defense premised upon voluntary intoxication combined with the effects of a prescription medication rather than, in whole or in part, Petitioner’s Tourette’s Syndrome disability. His strategy was to focus on petitioner’s lack of mental capacity to form the specific intent required for murder, or at least murder in the first degree, and to argue for a verdict of manslaughter. On appeal Petitioner sought funds for a PET scan and argued that the PET scan would show evidence of temporal lobe epilepsy, a condition that might render him incapable of recognizing the wrongfulness of actions. The superior court allowed the motion for the PET scan and the scan did not find evidence of the epilepsy. The court then denied the motion for a new trial. Counsel investigated a diminished capacity defense and retained a neuropsychologist to evaluate the theory. Counsel knew that multiple witnesses would testify that Petitioner said that he would get away with murder because of his condition, and that the treating physician would testify that there was no causal link between Tourette’s and the killing. The court denied the habeas petition and found it was reasonable for counsel to present the voluntary intoxication defense instead of Tourette’s.

About Nita A. Farahany

Professor of Law and Philosophy, Professor of Genome Sciences and Policy
This entry was posted in Criminal, Neuroscience and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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