Brief of Amicus Curiae the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Support of Petitioner’s Objections to Magistrate Judge’s Order.
Argument: Investigations by telephone, rather than in-person, deprive Brown of effective assistance of counsel. Defense counsel’s ability in a death penalty case to effectively represent the client is derived from “the overarching duty to advocate the defendant’s cause.” This duty is even more critical in capital cases, since “‘the penalty of death is qualitatively different’ from any other sentence.” As such, capital cases require a “greater degree of reliability when the death sentence is imposed.” However, reliability is only attainable when defense counsel is able to adequately investigate and prepare, which is fundamental to attorney competence. Inhibiting defense counsel’s ability to investigate renders counsel ineffective and harms the client. In fact, several courts have found defense counsel constitutionally ineffective for failing to conduct an in-person investigation. The Magistrate’s Order asks counsel to ignore ethical obligations under standards governing capital cases. A mitigation investigation in a capital case must not deviate from the American Bar Association Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Council in Death Penalty Cases and the Supplementary Guidelines for the Mitigation Function of Defense Teams in Death Penalty Cases. Capital life sentence investigations must be conducted according to well-established best practices. The ABA Guidelines, the Supplementary Guidelines, and Texas Guidelines articulate the national and state standards regarding the investigation obligations of defense teams in such cases.