Nevada Supreme Court grants new penalty hearing in a capital case

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In an unpublished decision of December 31, the Nevada Supreme Court granted a new penalty hearing in the capital case of Jones v. State.  The Court found ineffective assistance of trial counsel based upon failure to investigate mitigating evidence and failure to prepare for the penalty phase.  The Court also found extensive prosecutorial misconduct in the closing argument on the penalty phase.  The Court acknowledged that it relied upon an erroneous standard of review on direct appeal when it affirmed Jones' death sentence despite a finding of prosecutorial misconduct because of "overwhelming evidence of guilt."  "Rather than focusing on the evidence of guilt, when reviewing prosecutorial misconduct committed during a penalty hearing, the focus of the prejudice inquiry should be on the penalty proceedings and whether the misconduct 'so infected the proceedings with unfairness as to make the results a denial of due process."  Someone puzzling is the fact that the opinion with the erroneous standard was published, but the Court's acknowledgement of its use of incorrect standard is unpublished, so the erroneous standard appears to stand as valid despite its obvious flaw.  The Court affirms Jones' judgment of conviction as to issues raised concerning the guilt phase.

Disclosure: I am counsel for Jones.

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This page contains a single entry by JoNell published on January 13, 2009 8:15 AM.

US Supreme Court issues opinions in 2 criminal cases was the previous entry in this blog.

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