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9th Circuit Decision

9th Circuit Decision

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Published by James King

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Published by: James King on Oct 12, 2011
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FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALSFOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
 
S
TEVEN
C
RAIG
J
AMES
,No. 08-99016
Petitioner-Appellant,
D.C. No.v.2:00CV-01118-
NVWD
ORA
B. S
CHRIRO
,
 Respondent-Appellee.
OPINION
Appeal from the United States District Courtfor the District of ArizonaNeil V. Wake, District Judge, PresidingArgued and SubmittedMarch 17, 2011—San Francisco, CaliforniaFiled October 12, 2011Before: William A. Fletcher, Marsha S. Berzon, andMilan D. Smith, Jr., Circuit Judges.Opinion by Judge William A. Fletcher
18785
 
COUNSEL
Gary T. Lowenthal, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Thomas JamesPhalen, Phoenix, Arizona, for the petitioner.Kent Ernest Cattani, ARIZONA ATTORNEY GENERAL’SOFFICE, Phoenix, Arizona, Amy Pignatella Cain, ARI-ZONA ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE, Tucson, Ari-zona, for the respondent.
OPINION
W. FLETCHER, Circuit Judge:Death-sentenced prisoner Steven James appeals the districtcourt’s denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.James, Lawrence Libberton, and Martin Norton were con-victed in separate proceedings in Arizona state court of crimesconnected to the 1981 murder of Juan Maya. James, Libber-ton, and Norton severely beat Maya, drove him to an isolateddesert area, killed him by shooting him and striking him withrocks, and threw his body down an abandoned mine shaft.Norton, who was 14 years old at the time of the murder,agreed to testify against James and Libberton and to plead
18789J
AMES
v. S
CHRIRO
 
guilty in juvenile court to first-degree murder, kidnapping,armed robbery, and credit card fraud. In exchange for his tes-timony and guilty plea, Norton was committed to juveniledetention until he turned 18, with no subsequent incarceration.Libberton was convicted of first-degree murder, aggravatedkidnapping, robbery, and theft, and sentenced to death.
Statev. Libberton
, 685 P.2d 1284, 1286 (Ariz. 1984). A panel of this court granted Libberton habeas relief with respect to hisdeath sentence.
 Libberton v. Ryan
, 583 F.3d 1147, 1151-52(9th Cir. 2009),
cert. denied 
, 130 S. Ct. 3412 (2010). Jameswas convicted of first-degree murder and kidnapping, andsentenced to death.
State v. James
, 685 P.2d 1293, 1296 (Ariz.1984).James raises three grounds for relief. First, he claims thatthe state failed to disclose an oral plea agreement with Nor-ton, in violation of 
 Brady v. Maryland 
, 373 U.S. 83 (1963),and
Giglio v. United States
, 405 U.S. 150 (1972). Second, heclaims that the state failed to correct Norton’s false testimonydenying the existence of this agreement, in violation of 
 Napuev. Illinois
, 360 U.S. 264 (1959). Third, he claims that his trialcounsel provided ineffective assistance at the penalty phase,in violation of 
Strickland v. Washington
, 466 U.S. 668 (1984).We affirm the denial of relief with respect to James’s guilt-phase claims based on
 Brady
,
Giglio
, and
 Napue
. However,we reverse with respect to James’s penalty-phase claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, which was not decided onthe merits in state court. We conclude that counsel’s completefailure to investigate and present mitigating evidence of James’s troubled childhood, his mental illness, and his historyof chronic drug abuse constituted deficient performance. Wefurther conclude that this failure prejudiced James because itprevented the sentencing judge from learning that James had“the kind of troubled history we have declared relevant toassessing a defendant’s moral culpability.”
Wiggins v. Smith
,539 U.S. 510, 535 (2003);
see also, e.g.
,
Penry v. Lynaugh
,492 U.S. 302, 319 (1989) (“[E]vidence about the defendant’s
18790J
AMES
v. S
CHRIRO

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