Sixth Circuit, Appeals Court rules on ineffective assistance of counsel (Reddy v. Kelly)

The Policy

What it does

Determines the failure to introduce into evidence a psychological report pertaining to defendant’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) constituted ineffective assistance of counsel.

Synopsis

Reddy v. Kelly is a Sixth Circuit case expanding the test for ineffective assistance of counsel to include unreasonable failure to submit relevant scientific information that could help a client win their case.

In this case, the Court ruled that a defendant with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has a valid claim for ineffective assistance of counsel in a homicide case if defendant had been diagnosed prior to the trial and counsel failed to submit the report of the diagnosis into evidence when it could have determined the outcome of the case.   

Context

<p>When a state prisoner’s claim is decided on the merits in state court, the <a href="https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-104publ132/html/PLAW-104publ132.htm">... and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996</a> bars re-litigation of the same claim in federal courts unless the state court applied an unreasonable application of federal law, or if the decision was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented during the proceedings.&nbsp;<br />
&nbsp;</p>

<p>The Sixth Circuit’s test for ineffective assistance of counsel requires that the petitioner show that:</p>

<ul>
<li>The counsel’s performance was deficient; and</li>
<li>The counsel’s deficiency prejudiced the defense to the degree that the outcome of the case likely would have been different had counsel not been deficient.</li>
</ul>

The Science

Science Synopsis

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental disorder that develops in reaction to having experienced shocking, frightening, or dangerous events. PTSD symptoms include feeling “on-edge”, facing extreme fear, and being prone to angry outbursts. Individuals living with PTSD can have trouble with trust and communication, which may affect the way they interact with others. Healthcare professionals with experience in assisting people with mental illness diagnose PTSD in adults by finding out whether the patient has experienced a series of symptoms.

PTSD may also affect impulse control. People living with PTSD may experience emotion dysregulation, which involves the inabilities to understand, control, form adaptive strategies toward, and accept emotional distress. This can lead to impulsive behaviors following periods of high emotional arousal.

Relevant Experts

Sara Sun Beale, JD is the Charles L.B. Lowndes Professor of Law at the Duke Law School.


The Debate