Failure to Present Evidence of Clients Mental Capacity Establishes Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

By: Wallin & Klarich

It was recently reported that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that an attorney is liable for defective performance when the attorney fails to put forward evidence related to a defendant’s mental capacity and history of substance abuse. Steven James was charged with first degree murder. Steven James suffered from childhood emotional and psychological trauma. The Court held that the attorney failed to provide effective assistance of counsel and demonstrated a deficient performance that prejudiced Mr. James at trial.

The Court argued that Mr. James’ attorney did not consult with him nor did the attorney conduct a thorough investigation into Mr. James’ life history. Moreover Mr. James had in his possession documents that related to his medical history that included medical documents and education records. These documents provided information as to Mr. James’ social problems and behavioral tendencies. The attorney was aware that Mr. James had several suicide attempts and was on anti-depressants. The Court explained that an attorney in a capital case is required to conduct a thorough investigation of the Defendant’s background, which includes the Defendant’s medical and psychological history. Mr. James’s attorney failed to conduct an even basic investigation into Mr. James’ history. As a result, failure to provide evidence of Mr. James’ psychological history has significantly prejudiced his case.

If you or a loved one is charged with a serious crime such as murder, it is important that you speak with an experienced Los Angeles murder attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience in handling all types of murder cases. Our experienced attorneys will fully inform you of your options as will as investigate your social history to determine whether or not there’s information that may mitigate your culpability. Call us today at (888) 280-6839 or visit us at We will be there when you call.

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