Supreme Court vacates denial of relief on claim of ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing

The Supreme Court in a per curiam opinion in Andrus v. Texas, 590 U.S. ___ (June 15, 2020), ruled that trial counsel in this Texas death penalty case performed deficiently as to the sentencing phase by: (1) performing "almost no mitigation investigation, overlooking vast tranches of mitigating evidence"; (2) presenting evidence that "backfired by bolstering the State's aggravation case"; and (3) failing to adequately "investigate the State's aggravating evidence."  Regarding prejudice, the Supreme Court found it unclear whether the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals considered this prong of Strickland when it rejected in a single sentence the recommendation of the state habeas court to grant a new sentencing hearing based on ineffective assistance of counsel.  It observed that the concurring opinion by the state appellate court did analyze prejudice.  In that analysis, the concurrence appeared to assume that the Strickland  prejudice inquiry turns principally on how the facts of the case at issue compare with the facts in Wiggins.  The Supreme Court noted, however, "that we have never before equated what was sufficient in Wiggins with what is necessary to establish prejudice." The case is remanded for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals "to address Strickland prejudice in light of the correct legal principles articulated" in this decision.