479 U.S. 972 (1986)

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U.S. Supreme Court

MAXWELL v. FLORIDA , 479 U.S. 972 (1986)

479 U.S. 972

Chester Levon MAXWELL
No. 86-5541

Supreme Court of the United States

November 17, 1986

On petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Florida.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice BRENNAN, dissenting.

Adhering to my view that the death penalty is in all circumstances cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 227, 2950, 49 L. Ed.2d 859 (1976), I would grant certiorari and vacate the death sentence in this case.

Justice MARSHALL, dissenting.

Adhering to my view that the death penalty is under all circumstances cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, I would vacate the judgment of the Florida Supreme Court insofar as it left undisturbed the death sentence imposed in this case. Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 231, 2973 ( 1976) (MARSHALL, J., dissenting). However, even if I believed that the death penalty could constitutionally be imposed under certain circumstances, I would nevertheless grant certiorari because petitioner's Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel required that he be given access to his trial counsel's work files for use in his state habeas corpus hearing in which he alleged that trial counsel's representation was constitutionally deficient.


Petitioner was convicted of murder and sentenced to death after a jury trial. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed his conviction and sentence on direct appeal. 443 So.2d 967 (1983). Fol-

Page 479 U.S. 972 , 973

lowing the issuance of a death warrant, petitioner sought habeas corpus relief in state court. After a hearing, the habeas petition was denied; the Supreme Court of Florida again affirmed. 490 So.2d 927 (1986).

The petition stated a claim for ineffective assistance of trial counsel, challenging counsel's failure to make certain motions and objections in the course of petitioner's defense. The habeas petition also alleged that trial counsel, engaged in his first attempt to defend a client on capital charges, inadequately investigated petitioner's background in preparation for the penalty phase of the trial. 490 So.2d, at 932-933.

Prior to the hearing, petitioner's trial counsel refused habeas counsel's informal request to produce work files pertaining to petitioner's defense. Time constraints did not permit habeas counsel to subpoena these materials before filing petitioner's motion for habeas corpus relief. [Footnote 1] When the trial attorney testified at the hearing, he admitted denying access to the requested files and again refused production. He offered this justification for his refusal:

"It is my reason and belief that . . . if I'm going to divulge or reveal or to allow people to inspect my files it should be done by court order from either side and the reason for that belief is that I think and believe wholeheartedly that if an attorney who's a trial attorney is preparing his case for trial that if its going to be subject to review a couple of years later it may put a chilling effect on an attorney making notes or work product or whatever have you.

"In other words, that attorney may not be as free to express himself within his own confines of his file and, consequently, until a court orders me to do so and that's determined to be a lawful order, I have refused permission to turn it over to you." App. to Pet. for Cert. 19-20.

Habeas counsel then moved to compel production of the trial attorney's entire file. The state court denied this motion "based upon [ trial counsel's] rationale." Id., at 20.

Without the file, petitioner was unable to demonstrate the alleged deficiency of trial counsel's representation, particularly with respect to his preparation for the penalty phase of petitioner's trial. [479 U.S. 972 , 974]

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