Jones v. Barnes

463 U.S. 745 (1983)


P was charged with first- and second-degree robbery, second-degree assault, and third-degree larceny. The prosecution rested primarily upon the victim's testimony and his identification of P. During cross-examination, defense counsel asked the victim whether he had ever undergone psychiatric treatment; however, no offer of proof was made on the substance or relevance of the question after the trial judge sua sponte instructed the victim not to answer. The trial judge declined to give an instruction on accessorial liability requested by the defense. The jury convicted P of first- and second-degree robbery and second-degree assault. The Appellate Division assigned Michael Melinger to represent P on appeal. P sent Melinger a letter listing several claims that he felt should be raised. Included were claims that Butts' identification testimony should have been suppressed, that the trial judge improperly excluded psychiatric evidence, and that P's trial counsel was ineffective. Respondent also enclosed a copy of a pro se brief he had written. Melinger accepted some but rejected most of the suggested claims, stating that they would not aid P in obtaining a new trial and that they could not be raised on appeal because they were not based on evidence in the record. Melinger then listed seven potential claims of error that he was considering including in his brief, and invited P's 'reflections and suggestions' with regard to those seven issues. The record does not reveal any response to this letter. Melinger's brief concentrated on three of the seven points, but Melinger also submitted P's own pro se brief. Thereafter, P filed two more pro se briefs, raising more of the seven issues Melinger had identified. Melinger argued the three points presented in his own brief, but not the arguments raised in the pro se briefs. P filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. P raised five claims of error, including ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The District Court dismissed the petition. The Court of Appeals affirmed, and the Supreme Court denied certiorari. After making the rounds in state court, P then returned to District Court for the second time, with a petition for habeas corpus based on the claim of ineffective assistance by appellate counsel. The court dismissed the petition. The Court of Appeals reversed; when 'the appellant requests that [his attorney] raise additional colorable points [on appeal], counsel must argue the additional points to the full extent of his professional ability.'  The Supreme Court granted certiorari.