holding that the failure to request a jury instruction on a lesser-included offense did not amount to deficient performance because counsel averred that, after consultation with client, "they jointly made a strategic decision to pursue an 'all-or-nothing' approach to obtain an outright acquittal"Summary of this case from Cruz v. Superintendant
The panel unanimously concludes this case is suitable for decision without oral argument. See Fed.R.App.P. 34(a)(2).
Filed November 18, 2010.
Nell Brown, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Federal Public Defender's Office, Portland, OR, for Petitioner-Appellant.
Janet A. Klapstein, Assistant Attorney General, AGOR-Office of the Oregon Attorney General, Salem, OR, for Respondents-Appellee.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Malcolm F. Marsh, Senior District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 3:08-cv-00620-MA.
This disposition is not appropriate for publication and is not precedent except as provided by 9th Cir. R. 36-3.
Stephen Richard Miller appeals from the District Court's denial of his 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Petition for Habeas Corpus. Miller presents a single claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, contending that the Oregon post-conviction court unreasonably applied the clearly established law of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). We affirm.
Miller contends that he was denied effective assistance of trial counsel because his counsel (1) failed to request a lesser-included offense jury instruction and (2) failed to communicate properly with him regarding that decision. We have found ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to request a jury instruction in situations in which there was not even a plausible strategic explanation for counsel's failure to request the instruction. E.g., United States v. Alferahin, 433 F.3d 1148, 1161 (9th Cir. 2006). Here, in comparison, not only is there a plausible explanation, there is an actual explanation: one of the attorneys averred that, after consulting with Miller, they jointly made a strategic decision to pursue an "all-or-nothing" approach to obtain an outright acquittal. Such an approach was compatible with the law and the evidence presented at trial. Regarding the alleged failure to communicate, Miller has offered no evidence to rebut the post-conviction court's factual finding that the decision to forgo requesting a lesser-included offense instruction was jointly made by Miller and his counsel. Accordingly, we hold that Miller was not denied effective assistance of counsel.
Because we determine that counsel's performance was not deficient, we do not reach Strickland's prejudice prong. See, e.g., Butcher v. Marquez, 758 F.2d 373, 377 (9th Cir. 1985).
We hold that the Oregon post-conviction court did not unreasonably apply the clearly established law of Strickland v. Washington, and we therefore affirm the District Court's denial of Miller's Petition for Habeas Corpus.