Supreme Court Restricts Review of Ineffective Counsel Claims in Death Penalty Cases

In a 6-3 decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a federal court may not consider new evidence outside the state-court record in deciding whether the state violated a person’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel at trial.

Shinn v. Ramirez addresses the cases of two men sentenced to death in Arizona after they received constitutionally ineffective assistance at trial.

Judges are Politicians, just hoods in black robes!

Barry Jones asserts that he was wrongly sentenced to death for the sexual assault and murder of his girlfriend’s four-year-old daughter. After his court-appointed lawyer failed to investigate and present readily available medical evidence showing that the child was not with Mr. Jones when her injuries were sustained, he claimed his rights were violated and a new trial was required.


Under Arizona law, state postconviction review was Mr. Jones’s first opportunity to challenge his trial lawyer’s ineffectiveness. But the state court appointed him a postconviction lawyer who did not even meet the minimum qualifications required by state law. That lawyer likewise failed to investigate and did not raise the claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the State’s medical evidence.

Not until Mr. Jones was appointed competent counsel in federal habeas proceedings did he have the chance to present the medical evidence, which the federal court relied on to find that both his trial and postconviction lawyers were ineffective. The court granted him a new trial, which was upheld by a unanimous panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals.

In a second case, David Ramirez was sentenced to death in 1990 after his trial lawyer failed to investigate and present evidence of his intellectual disabilities, which might have prevented imposition of the death penalty. His postconviction lawyer likewise failed to investigate his intellectual disability and did not argue that his trial counsel was ineffective.

The federal court appointed the Arizona Federal Public Defender to represent Mr. Ramirez, and they submitted evidence showing that he “grew up eating on the floor and sleeping on dirty mattresses in houses filthy with animal feces; that Ramirez’s mother would beat him with electrical cords; and that Ramirez displayed multiple apparent developmental delays, including ‘delayed walking, potty training, and speech’ and inability to maintain basic hygiene or to use utensils to eat.” The Ninth Circuit held the new evidence was substantial and ordered an evidentiary hearing.

In both cases, the federal courts relied on Martinez v. Ryan and Trevino v. Thaler, which held that a person whose postconviction lawyer fails to adequately challenge their trial lawyer’s ineffective performance may raise the ineffectiveness claim for the first time in federal court. These cases provided a critical safeguard for people sentenced to death who had deficient lawyers both at trial and in postconviction proceedings.

Arizona prosecutors appealed the Ninth Circuit’s decisions in Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Jones’s cases. They argued in the Supreme Court that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), a federal law passed in 1996 that severely restricts incarcerated and death-sentenced people’s access to federal habeas corpus review, bars a federal court from considering any evidence that was not presented in state court, even if Martinez and Trevinoallow the ineffectiveness claim to be raised in federal court.

At oral argument, Justices Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts questioned the inherent conflict in Arizona’s position, with Justice Thomas noting that it would be “rather odd” to “excuse a default under Martinez, but not allow the prisoner to make his underlying claim or develop his evidence.”

Notwithstanding these concerns, the conservative majority adopted Arizona’s position and effectively gutted the Court’s precedent in service of finality and deference to state courts.

The ruling “all but overrules” Martinez and Trevino, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan. It is “perverse” and “illogical” to hold that a “petitioner cannot logically be faultless for not bringing a claim because of postconviction counsel’s ineffectiveness, yet at fault for not developing its evidentiary basis for exactly the same reason,” she wrote.

Ineffective assistance claims “frequently turn on errors of omission: evidence that was not obtained, witnesses that were not contacted, experts who were not retained, or investigative leads that were not pursued,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “Demonstrating that counsel failed to take each of these measures by definition requires evidence beyond the trial record.”

Barring such evidence from being developed or considered in federal court, she wrote, renders Martinez “meaningless in many, if not most, cases,” because petitioners will not be able to prove the ineffectiveness claims that Martinez allows them to raise.

“For the subset of these petitioners who receive ineffective assistance both at trial and in state postconviction proceedings, the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee is now an empty one,” the dissent concluded. “Many, if not most, individuals in this position will have no recourse and no opportunity for relief.”

The decision means that Mr. Jones and Mr. Ramirez, “whose trial attorneys did not provide even the bare minimum level of representation required by the Constitution[,] may be executed because forces outside of their control prevented them from vindicating their constitutional right to counsel,” Justice Sotomayor wrote.

And in addition to them, the decision “will leave many people who were convicted in violation of the Sixth Amendment to face incarceration or even execution without any meaningful chance to vindicate their right to counsel.”

Hammer “Rap-The-Vote Concert Series” Secured Re-Election of Russian President Boris Yeltsin

As long as there are reformers in the Russian Federation and the other states leading the journey toward democracy’s horizon, our strategy must be to support them. And our place must be at their side.”

-President Bill Clinton on the re-election of Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1995- 

Russian President Boris Yeltsin at White House with President Bill Clinton

Our HISTORIC Hammer “Rap-The-Vote Concert Series” Secured Re-Election of Russian President Boris Yeltsin AND Spawned Rise of Vladamir Putin to Power!

This 1995 revisited article was written strictly from a WORLD  HISTORIC perspective about how our “WORLD ALTERING” Urban-American, western style, political campaign strategy utilizing M. C. Hammer in a “Rap-The-Vote Concert Series” secured the 18-45 voter turnout and the re-election of Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1995 with the “Our Home Is Russia” (NDR), a Russian liberal political party. Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim devised a strategic plan, executive produced, produced, filmed and broadcast on Russian National TV a series of concerts in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and the WORLD. This campaign tactic was their most effective strategy, greatest strength- uniquely different and vastly superior to anything Russia had ever witnessed. This comprehensive, targeted attack with our expertise well grounded in modern focused campaigning strategy, advertising, marketing, and promotions was trumpeted for saving Russian democracy with Yeltsin’s re-election ensuring continuity in the Democratic evolution of Russia and securing world peace. The television programming was so successful that it has regularly run on air since 1995!

This strategy was trumpted for saving Russian democracy with Yeltsin’s re-election ensuring continuity in the Democratic evoultion of Russia and securing world peace.

The television programming was so successful that it has regularly run on air since 1995!



At the time we began our concerts and campaign events over the weeks in St. Petersburg, Vladimir Putin was then Deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, organized the St. Petersburg branch of the Party Our Home Is Russia, was it’s Chairman, and led the campaign issue of the party in the elections to the Duma that led to his rise to power and being named President of Russia by Boris Yeltsin. 

After our concerts and campaign events over the weeks ending in Moscow, our overwhelmingly positive Polling numbers cemented the campaign an incredible success and this strategy was heralded world wide by political pundits as “incredibly brilliant”, “ a global coup”, “a miraculous event in history”, a “triumph for democratic reform” and “universally invaluable” in it’s effect of being “a savior”, as Yeltsin was the only alternative to guaranteeing the West’s and the World’s political, economic, and military security to carry out their reform agenda.

BUT, with a Western audience in mind, but I must add an important clarification that I do not aim to justify the authoritarian tendency or the confrontational policies undertaken by Russia, EVER. However, a sober conversation about missed opportunities, of what went wrong, requires a scrutinizing evaluation not only of Russian, but also of the rest of the World, including China, North Korea, South America, Israel and the United States.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has been traversing its own, often difficult path toward independent development. The trajectory of the country’s development was mostly determined by internal factors, particularly concerning the balance of power among various sections of the Russian elite.

For Russia, the early 1990s were one of those critical junctures when many paths were open. The politically active section of society defeated a decrepit totalitarian regime, hoping to restore Russia’s full participation in the community of developed states in the global north. In those days, the most pressing question in Russian society appeared to concern identity: Who are we? In searching for an answer, many members of the reformist elite waited for the West to extend a hand in friendship, to offer assistance as equals.

Accordingly, many among the Russian elite and society at large answered that question by attempting to reclassify their country as a member of the “first world.” It was the world Andrei Sakharov dreamed that Russia could join, as yesterday’s foe and tomorrow’s friend. That move, they hoped, could lead to Russia’s deeper integration into the West’s political, economic, and security structures, such as the EU, NATO, WHO, Schengen Zone, and the World.

Such a move, had it been successful, would not have prevented a nationalist backlash in subsequent years but might at least have limited it: elites integrated into Western systems would have valued the advantages of their position. And if, regardless of those achievements, Russia’s leaders had still opted for isolationism, then the world would be discussing “Russia’s Brexit” and its departure from the EU. It would not be discussing the invasion of Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, wars in Georgia and Chechnya, and the evisceration of constitutional freedoms in Russia.

“Our Home Is Russia” (NDR) was a Russian liberal political party founded in 1995, existed to 2006, by former Gazprom chairman, then Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. It was a liberal, centrist political movement, founded for the purpose of rallying more technocratic-reformist (right-wing) government supporters. At the time of its founding, Chernomyrdin had the backing of Russian president Boris Yeltsin along with numerous large financial institutions such as Association of Russian Banks, and major companies such as Gazprom, of which he was formerly the chairman. 

Viktor Chernomyrdin, served as Russia’s prime minister under then President Boris Yeltsin from 1992 to 1998, a turbulent period of economic hardship and political turmoil as a bankrupted Russia struggled to recreate itself as a democracy after the Soviet collapse, developing as a market economy while throwing off communism and engineered the creation of Gazprom, now the world’s biggest gas company.

Previously Yeltsin tacitly supported Russia’s Choice as the preferred party to win the December 1993 elections for the Duma and carry out the reform agenda that the late Supreme Soviet had stalled. However, the failure of Russia’s Choice and other reform-oriented parties in that election forced Yeltsin to change his strategy, once again relying on Chernomyrdin, his emerging “Party of Power,” the industrial-military complex, the armed forces, and the KGB–to the detriment of the legislature and Russian democracy.

The leaders of the Democratic Russia Movement, the coalition that pressed Mikhail Gorbachev to annul the communist monopoly on power in February 1990, that launched Yeltsin into the Russian presidency in June 1991, and that then gave birth to the Russia’s Choice party.

The movement attracted the sympathies and interests of many prominent members of the ruling elite of Russia, and NDR was thus nicknamed “the party of power”. It was also known as the party of the Oligarchs, the position previously identified with another political party, Democratic Choice of Russia. Two other parties were interested in cooperating with NDR after its foundation: parts of the Agrarian Party of Russia and Democratic Choice of Russia. Together their platform would promote “freedom, property, and legality”, and would favor such policies as reducing the state’s role in the economy, support for small businesses, privatization of agriculture, military cutbacks and sought “a normal life in Russia” and peace in Chechnya after the First Chechen War. However, after Chernomyrdin’s candidacy for a second term as Prime Minister was in 1998 rejected by the Duma, Our Home – Russia declined the other parties’ bid for cooperation.

Boris Yeltsin wanted to establish a two-party system in 1995 after the American model and advocated the establishment of a center-right and a left- centrist electoral blocs. Yeltsin’s aim was on the one hand to clip the extreme parties on the political fringe, even at the head of the Communist Party Gennady Zyuganov KPRF away from the power. On the other hand, Yeltsin wanted to create functional, loyal and non-ideological parties to consolidate its power and stability of the country.

The main parties competing in the 1996 Russian Duma elections learned a lesson from 1993 and made wider use of popular artistic and sports figures ¡in advertisements, for endorsements, and as candidates for office. Chernomyrdin’s party even used the American rapper M. C. Hammer. These popular figures help establish a party’s image. To this day, most of Russia’s parties center around personalities and not platforms, and they have yet to consolidate loyal, definable constituencies.

The 1999 Duma elections also followed this trend. The greatest vote-getter was Yedinstvo, a party formed only weeks prior to the elections, which had no political or economic platforms and whose only overt identity was support for Vladimir Putin, the popular prime minister. Therefore, the image that Russian parties convey on television can prove more crucial than in established democracies. This means that whoever has the slickest ad, appeals to emotions (such as Yedinstvo did with the war in Chechnya), and boasts the most charismatic personality often wins the vote. 

Some analysts explain Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s surprise success in the 1993 election by his adept use of symbolism and sleek soundbites, as others have partly attributed Yeltsin’s victory in the June 1991 Russian presidential elections to wide use of popular symbolism, as advised by the Krieble Institute of Washington.

The “Rap-The-Vote Concert Series” was particularly strange given Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin cherished his stodgy, button-down reputation. He was not young, he is not funky, and he most definitely does not “rock the house.” And that is why it was a bit surprising that Chernomyrdin’s campaign hired the American rapper M. C. Hammer to enliven the image of “Our Home Is Russia”, the centrist political party. 

M. C. Hammer in Russian “Rap-The-Vote Concert Series”

Against a glowing red, white and blue “Our Home Is Russia” backdrop at the Rossiya concert hall, Hammer bellowed, “We feel like bustin’ loose!”. 

The campaign for Russia’s parliamentary elections, which were held on Dec. 17, 1995, has begun, with about 5,000 candidates struggling for the attention of voters. And although almost all of them are wrapping themselves in patriotism, nationalism and fierce anti-Western slogans, their campaigns have gone completely Hollywood. 

In television advertising, sex, money and fear-mongering are far more prominent this year than issues and platforms. Although Russia has experimented with American-style campaign tactics before, this campaign is beginning to look like a Soviet propagandist’s worst caricature of the American democratic process. 

Some politicians, like the extreme nationalist Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky, are selling themselves with the kind of erotic imagery usually reserved for car advertisements and music videos. Others, including the popular nationalist general, Aleksandr Lebed, are using slick, scary spots about crime and corruption. And almost every party is using celebrities. Pop stars and actors are not just endorsing candidates, they are running for office on almost every party list. 

Even the Communists are not immune to showbiz. Nikolai Gubenko, a popular actor and theater director, is a top party candidate.

“Except for the Communist Party, there is such weak party identity in Russia that candidates have to sell personalities, not political platforms,” said Michael McFaul, an expert on Russian politics at Stanford University. “It becomes Hollywood glitzy – what personality can make us famous?” 

Our Home Is Russia is known as the “party of power” because it is made up of government officials, is backed by the major Russian banks and has political clout and money, but it has fared poorly in most public opinion polls. 

The party has recruited Nikita Mikhalkov, the Oscar-winning actor in “Burnt by the Sun” and the movie’s director, as well as Ludmila Zykina, a famous anthem singer who was the Soviet Kate Smith. 

Its managers are chasing the vote of the disaffected youth in a way that would make Gary Hart blush. 

“We have to use different, unusual means to wake the voters up,” said Yuri Shuvalov, 30, a campaign strategist.

The state-owned television and radio stations, including ORT, Russia’s largest network, which was formerly state-owned and is now partly owned by a consortium of banks sympathetic to the government, will each give free airtime to all parties – a maximum of one hour a month. They also will sell additional, paid, airtime to campaigns, but ORT has determined that candidates and parties can only buy three minutes of additional airtime. Candidates and their parties are free to buy airtime on Russia’s private networks, but only ORT is broadcast nationwide. 

If many of the candidate’s paid advertisements look like flashy MTV videos, the taped appeals on free airtime that began appearing on Tuesday looked more like late-night public-access television. Politicians like Yegor T. Gaidar of the democratic Russia’s Choice party, and Ivan Rybkin, the speaker of Parliament, running with his own centrist party, fumbled with their notes, fidgeted in their pockets and looked in the wrong cameras. 

Though all the major parties are producing slick television advertisements that concentrate on image more than substance, Zhirinovsky still leads the pack. His first television advertisement, broadcast on the Moscow channel, features a sexy cabaret singer, purring a love song to him (“The world would be so boring without you/you are my idol’”) as she teasingly unzips her blouse. Behind her, a giant screen flickers with clips of Zhirinovsky in action, including the time he flung a glass of orange juice in the face of his opponent during a televised debate. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin

Vladimir Putin was then Deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, who became president of Russia, organized in 1995, the St. Petersburg branch of the Party Our House Russia, was it’s Chairman, and led the campaign issue of the party in the elections to the Duma.

Not necessarily for OHR, of course, but the bloc’s name was prominent on the publicity posters and its deputy chairman in St. Petersburg Alexander Prokhorenko agreed that the existence of OHR was likely to penetrate the minds of MC Hammer fans along with his music.

The concert was aimed to encourage the city’s apolitical young people to vote. “I don’t believe that thinking people could go to a concert and then immediately vote for OHR,” he said. “But at least they will start to wonder who we are.”

Free concert tickets were distributed to the city’s schools, higher education institutes, military academies and youth clubs. “This should be an election for the generation aged between 20 and 40,” Mr. Prokhorenko said. “It must determine its own fate or else the development of Russia on general world lines could slow down.”

He feared that if young people stayed at home on election day and did not support democratic forces then there could be a repeat of the 1993 picture where three-quarters of the electorate did not vote “and only afterwards complain about decisions that are taken. It is obvious that Duma deputies do not represent the majority of people.”

“We are not a political party, we are a social movement,” said Mr Prokhorenko. “We do not have the organizational structures of a political party and there is no official membership system, you just announce that you are a member of our movement,” he continued.

St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak declared his support for OHR, and his wife Ludmilla Narusova was a candidate on the bloc’s federal list.

Mr. Prokhorenko himself is a deputy in the City Assembly. Nevertheless he denied that OHR deserved the oft-quoted label “party of power.” “That is a stereotype which is not correct,” he said. “The essence of any party is the aims it sets itself, and only after that the people who participate in it. “Our purpose is to get the largest possible number of professionally prepared, experienced politicians elected to the Duma.”

In that case, it would have seemed logical for OHR to unite with other democratic parties in opposition to communists and ultra-nationalists.

Mr. Prokhorenko said he did not think so, as Russia had been a totalitarian country for so long that it was time for some freedom of choice.

“The fact that we have democrats of the Rybkin, Yavlinsky, Gaidar and Chernomyrdin types is an expression of Russian minds,” he said. “Maybe it’s not very useful for the country, but it’s objective.”

Former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was laid to rest after an emotional eulogy by Vladimir Putin.

Former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was laid to rest after an emotional eulogy by Vladimir Putin. The usually tough and sharp-tongued Putin, the current prime minister, spoke at his funeral service and at one point he paused and appeared to be struggling to hold back tears. His voice trembled as he said: “We will miss Viktor. We will hold his memory in our hearts and in our work.”






November 1995- M. C. Hammer in Russia, The Re-election of Russian President Boris Yeltsin by “Our Home Is Russia”, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin’s Political Party

Prime Minister Chernomyrdin’s party was struggling to distance their leader from the unpopularity of the Government he headed, resolved to using western style campaign strategy. “Our Home” promised economic stability and continuation of the Democratic course of Yeltsin’s government.

In November 1995 Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim executive produced, produced, filmed and broadcast on Russian National TV a series of concerts in St. Petersburg and Moscow by MC Hammer in an urban style, “Rap-The-Vote” to secure the 18-45 voter turnout and re-election of President Boris Yeltsin. Polling after the concerts was overwhelmingly positive..

“Hammer is our father and rap is a very serious subject for me and if Chernomyrdin can give us Hammer then we will give him our vote.” said Oleg, an 18-year old Russian rap fan in attendance.

Being Prime Minister gave Chernomyrdin a huge advantage in access to Russian voters, with slick campaign posters, he told AP “we are using American pop music performances to drum up support among Russian youth for his political campaign”; the video scenes showed M.C. Hammer performing. Chernomyrdin’s travels around Russia in his capacity as Prime Minister, but looked more like the political campaign trail of an American President.

This strategy was trumpeted as “world altering” for saving Russian democracy with Yeltsin’s re-election ensuring continuity in the evolution of Russia and securing world peace.

This strategy was heralded world wide by political pundits as “incredibly brilliant”, a “triumph for democratic reform” and “universally invaluable” in it’s effect of having “saved” Russian democracy, as Yeltsin was the only alternative in ensuring continuity in the evolution of Russia and securing world peace.

This coup, a miraculous event in history, was depicted and canonized in a 2004 film 

“Spinning Boris” starring Jeff Goldblum, Anthony LaPaglia and Liev Schreiber.

“Spinning Boris” The Best President of Russia America Ever Had   ..L. A. Times Review

Jeff Goldblum, Anthony LaPaglia and Liev Schreiber star as a trio of elite American political campaign operatives who were hired in secret to manage Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s election campaign in 1996. He’s polling at 6 percent with the election a few months away. First, they must get someone’s attention; they succeed finally with Yeltsin’s daughter, then it’s polling, focus groups, messages and spin. Even as Yeltsin’s numbers go up, they are unsure who hired them and if Yeltsin’s allies have a different plan in mind than victory. When the going gets toughest, they put a spin on their stake: democracy and capitalism must win. They orchestrate the most spectacular political comeback of the twentieth century – as they “sold” Boris Yeltsin to the Russian public gaining Yeltsin’s successful re-election.

The Re-election of Russian President Boris Yeltsin at Excerpts of “Clinton Secrets” in a book by JOHN DIAMOND

The campaign tactic was their most effective strategy, greatest strength- uniquely different and vastly superior to anything Russia had ever witnessed. This strategic plan with our expertise well grounded in modern American campaigning got Yeltsin re-elected. This was simply a matter of fact that he was the best the modern world could get compared to the alternative communist and he was fully supported by the U.S.

A State Department memorandum, marked “confidential,’’ summarized then President Bill Clinton’s meeting with Yeltsin at a summit in Egypt, where Clinton told Yeltsin he ”wanted to make sure that everything the United States did would have a positive impact and nothing should have a negative impact’’ on Yeltsin’s re-election. The memo added the U. S. wanted an upcoming summit with the Russian leader to be successful to “reinforce everything that Yeltsin had done.’’

Excerpts of “Clinton Secrets” in a book by JOHN DIAMOND, Associated Press Writer