Home Menu ↓
Clicking on our sponsor links helps insure continued free access to this website.
Please support our efforts by visiting our sponsors:


Rompilla v. Beard

Docket No.: 04-5462
Certiorari Granted: Sep 28 2004
Argued: January 18, 2005
Decided: June 20, 2005


Criminal Procedure, Right to Counsel, EPA, Sixth Amendment, habeas, habeas corpus, ineffective assistance of counsel, murder

PartyNames: Ronald Rompilla v. Jeffrey A. Beard, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Petitioner: Ronald Rompilla
Respondent: Jeffrey A. Beard, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
Citation: 355 F3d 233
Supreme Court Docket

Ronald Rompilla
Jeffrey A. Beard, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
545 U.S. 374 (2005)

Questions related to the Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154 (1994), issue:

Question Presented:

1. Does Simmons require a life-without-parole instruction where: the only alternative to a death sentence under state law is life without possibility of parole; the jury asks the court three questions about parole and rehabilitation during eleven hours of penalty-phase deliberations; the prosecution's evidence is that the defendant is a violent recidivist who functions poorly outside prison and who killed someone three months after being paroled from a lengthy prison term; and the prosecutor argues that the defendant is a frightening repeat offender and cold- blooded killer who learned from prior convictions that he should kill anyone who might identify him? 2. Is the state court decision denying the Simmons claim "contrary to" and/or an "unreasonable application" of clearly established Supreme Court law where the state court held that a history of violent convictions is irrelevant to the jury's assessment of future dangerousness, while ignoring the jury's questions about parole-eligibility and rehabilitation and the prosecution's actual evidence and argument? Questions related to counsel's ineffective assistance at capital sentencing: 3. Has a defendant received effective representation at capital sentencing where counsel does not review prior conviction records counsel knows the prosecution will use in aggravation, and where those records would have provided mitigating evidence regarding the defendant's traumatic childhood and mental health impairments? 4. Has a defendant received effective representation at capital sentencing where counsel's background mitigation investigation is limited to conversations with a few family members; where the few people with whom counsel spoke indicated to counsel that they did not know much about the defendant and could not help with background mitigation; where other sources of background information, including other family members, prior conviction records, prison records, juvenile court records and school records, were available but ignored by counsel; and where the records and other family members would have provided compelling mitigating evidence about the defendant's traumatic childhood, mental retardation and psychological disturbances? 5. Does counsel's ineffectiveness warrant habeas relief under AEDPA where the state court sought to excuse counsel's failure to obtain any records about the defendant's history by saying the records contained some information that was "not entirely helpful," by saying counsel hired mental health experts (even though those experts did not do any background investigation and never saw the records), and by saying counsel spoke to some family members (even though those family members told counsel they knew little about the defendant and could not help with mitigation); and where the state court did not even try to address counsel's failure to interview other family members (who knew the defendant's mitigating history) or counsel's complete failure to investigate the aggravation that the prosecution told counsel it would use?


Did the Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel require counsel to try to obtain material counsel had known the prosecution would probably use at the trial's sentencing phase?

Rompilla v. Beard

January 18 2005

Holding: reversed
Vote: 5-4
Opinion By:

Warning: Use of undefined constant caseTitle - assumed 'caseTitle' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /home/supremec/public_html/supremecourtobserver.com/code/sofunctionsndb.php on line 1147

Rompilla v. Beard
Case Documents

1Slip Opinion in Rompilla v. Beard
2Opinion in Rompilla v. Beard
Additional documents for this case are pending review.