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Yarborough v. Gentry

Supreme Court of the United States

October 20, 2003, Decided

No. 02-1597

Opinion

 [*2]   [**2]   [***5]  Per Curiam.

Respondent Lionel Gentry was convicted in California state court of assault with a deadly weapon for stabbing his girlfriend, Tanaysha Handy. Gentry claimed he stabbed her accidentally during a dispute with a drug dealer.

Handy testified for the prosecution. She stated that she recalled being stabbed but could not remember the details of the incident. The prosecution then confronted Handy with her testimony from a preliminary hearing that Gentry had placed his hand around her throat before stabbing her twice.

Albert Williams, a security guard in a neighboring building, testified that he saw Gentry, Handy, and another man from his third-floor window. According to Williams,  [****2]  Gentry swung his hand into Handy's left side with some object, causing her to lean forward and scream. Williams was inconsistent about the quality of light at the time, stating variously that it was "pretty dark" or "getting dark," that "it wasn't that dark," and that the area of the stabbing was  [***6]  "lighted up." See Gentry v. Roe, 320 F.3d 891, 896-897 (CA9 2003).

Gentry testified in his own defense that he had stabbed Handy accidentally while pushing her out of the way. When asked about prior convictions, he falsely stated that he had been convicted only once; evidence showed he had been separately convicted of burglary, grand theft, battery on a peace officer, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He attributed his error to confusion about whether a plea bargain counted as a conviction.

 [*3]  In her closing argument, the prosecutor expressed sympathy for Handy's plight as a pregnant, drug-addicted mother of three and highlighted her damaging preliminary hearing testimony. She accused Gentry of telling the jury a "pack of lies." See id., at 897-898. Defense counsel responded with the following closing argument:

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540 U.S. 1 *; 124 S. Ct. 1 **; 157 L. Ed. 2d 1 ***; 2003 U.S. LEXIS 7701 ****; 72 U.S.L.W. 3278; 2003 Cal. Daily Op. Service 9167; 2003 Daily Journal DAR 11517; 16 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 479

MICHAEL YARBOROUGH, WARDEN, et al., Petitioner's v. LIONEL E. GENTRY

Prior History:  [****1] ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.

Gentry v. Roe, 320 F.3d 891, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 2167 (9th Cir., 2003)

Disposition: Reversed.

stabbing, closing argument, convicted, happened, persuasive, listen, dark

Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Assistance of Counsel, Criminal Law & Procedure, Defendant's Rights, Right to Counsel, Effective Assistance of Counsel, Counsel, Effective Assistance of Counsel, Tests for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, General Overview, Standards of Review, Contrary & Unreasonable Standard, Jurisdiction, Cognizable Issues, Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, Threshold Requirements, Trials, Deferential Review