April 11, 2014
The Supreme Court will file its opinion in In re Champion on Monday, this year’s palindromic day (4/14/14). Champion is a habeas corpus petition, filed in November 1997, related to an automatic death penalty appeal. The court issued an order to show cause limited to the issue whether trial counsel provided ineffective assistance at the penalty phase of petitioner’s trial. The case was argued in March.
Interesting facts about this case: Champion’s trial counsel became a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge and the referee’s report being reviewed by the Supreme Court faults the trial counsel/now judge for “not adequately conduct[ing] a separate, independent investigation,” stating that, although counsel “was a very conscientious, credible attorney,” “a reasonably competent attorney [would] have tried to obtain [numerous pieces of mitigating] evidence” identified in the report. Because of the former trial counsel’s service on the bench in Los Angeles, the Supreme Court changed its initial appointment of a Los Angeles Superior Court judge as the referee and referred the matter to the Orange County Superior Court.
The opinion can be viewed online Monday beginning at 10:00 a.m.