Ex parte LaHood – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In Ex parte LaHood, 401 S.W.3d 45, 54 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013), the Court of Criminal Appeals found that counsel was ineffective in failing to investigate the appellant's mental health history. LaHood, 401 S.W.3d at 45.

The Court of Criminal Appeals noted that trial counsel knew that appellant was bipolar and that he was prescribed several psychiatric medications. Id. at 51.

Also, the appellant had engaged in disruptive behavior at trial, and although trial counsel disputed their testimony, appellant's father and ex-wife testified that they had told counsel of appellant's mental health history. Id.

The Court of Criminal Appeals ultimately found that the appellant was not prejudiced by trial counsel's failure to investigate his mental health because the appellant did not prove that had she investigated the matter, "that there was a reasonable probability that he would have been found incompetent to stand trial if the issue of competency had been raised and fully considered." Id. at 54.

Nevertheless, the court did find that trial counsel's failure to investigate that issue was unreasonable. Id. at 51-52.

Specifically, the Court of Criminal Appeals stated:

"Counsel's belief as to a medical issue is based on her own lay opinion, even though she knew Applicant had mental-health issues in the past and was taking medications that gave him, in her estimation, a "substantial probability of regaining competency." Applicant's medical records from the jail were easily accessible and contained significant information (including evidence of a suicide attempt during the trial) that could have allowed his attorney to assert that he was incompetent. After reviewing the quantum of evidence known to counsel before and during trial, and whether the known evidence would lead a reasonable attorney to investigate further, we conclude that trial counsel's failure to further investigate was unreasonable under the circumstances." Id.