PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.
Justice Sotomayor, with whom Justice Ginsburg and JUSTICE
Kagan join, dissenting from denial of certiorari.
deciding that petitioner Donnie Cleveland Lance should die as
punishment for two murders he committed, a jury heard no
evidence whatsoever to counterbalance the State's case
for the death penalty. Lance's counsel bore
responsibility for the one-sidedness of the sentencing
proceedings; he inexcusably failed even to look into, much
less to put on, a case for sparing Lance's life. And we
have since learned that Lance suffers from significant
cognitive impairments that the jury could have weighed in
assessing his moral culpability. In other words, there is a
meaningful case to be made for sparing Lance's life, but-
because he lacked access to constitutionally adequate
counsel-he has never had a chance to present it.
Georgia Supreme Court concluded that this state of affairs
was constitutionally tolerable because, in its view,
Lance's untold story stood no chance of persuading even a
single juror to favor life without parole over a death
sentence. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
held that its conclusion was not unreasonable. I cannot
agree. Our precedents clearly establish that Lance was
prejudiced by his inability to inform the jury about his
impairments. I therefore would grant Lance's petition for
review and summarily reverse.
facts of Lance's crimes-murdering his ex-wife, Sabrina
"Joy" Lance, and her boyfriend, Dwight
"Butch" Wood, Jr., in 1997-admittedly inspire
little sympathy. Lance went to Butch's home, kicked in
the front door, shot Butch with a shotgun, then bludgeoned
Joy to death with the gun. According to a fellow inmate, he
later bragged about the killings. Lance also had an extensive
prior history of domestic violence against Joy.
his counsel's ineffectiveness, however, those facts were
all the jurors ever learned about Lance; they heard no
evidence why his life was worth sparing. Lance was
represented during both the guilt and penalty phases of his
trial by a solo practitioner who became convinced of
Lance's innocence-and his own ability to prove it-early
in the representation. He thus prepared exclusively for the
guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial. Counsel did not even
broach the subject of possible penalty-phase evidence with
Lance or his family, because he did not want them
"thinking that [he] might be thinking in terms of losing
the case." App. to Pet. for Cert. 232. So when the jury
found Lance guilty and the question became whether Lance
should be put to death,  Lance's counsel had no evidence
whatsoever to present.
State did. It called six witnesses, including the
victims' relatives, to explain why Lance deserved to die.
The State's closing argument emphasized Lance's
history of violence against Joy, the brutality of her
killing, and Lance's apparent lack of remorse. The State
urged the jury to perceive Lance as "'cold and
calculating'" and repeatedly asked "'what
kind of person'" would do these things. 1 App. in
No. 16-15008 (CA11), pt. 1, pp. 68, 75, 77. Lance's
counsel, by contrast, made no opening statement and presented
no mitigating evidence. By his own admission, he "had
nothing to put on." App. to Pet. for Cert. 273. His
closing argument merely urged the jury to consider
Lance's family and to resist the temptation to exact
vengeance. About Lance, counsel said only that he was
"'kind of a quiet person and a country
boy'" who "'doesn't talk a
lot.'" 1 App. in No. 16-15008, pt. 1, at 85.
jury sentenced Lance to death.
2003, Lance filed a petition for postconviction relief in
state court, asserting that his trial counsel's failure
to investigate or present any mitigating evidence was
ineffective assistance of counsel. Essentially, he argued
that there was a meaningful case to be made for sparing his
life, and that his counsel had forfeited his chance to do so
evidence showed that counsel could have found possible
cognitive problems had he looked into Lance's personal
history. That history included repeated serious head traumas
caused by multiple car crashes, alcoholism, and-most
seriously-Lance's once being shot in the head by unknown
assailants while lying on his couch. In the aftermath of the
shooting, Lance had "terrible headaches,"
"dizziness," "difficulty working," and
"became even more quiet than he had before." App.
to Pet. for Cert. 171-172. The court found that any
reasonable defense attorney would have had Lance's mental