Is Death Penalty for Mentally Incompetent Lawyer Misrepresentation ?

In Williamson v. Ward, 110 F.3d 1508 (10th Cir. 1997), the petitioner was sentenced to death on a conviction of capital murder, affirmed in Oklahoma state court. He sought relief by habeas corpus in federal court alleging, inter alia, ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failing to investigate and make use of his history of mental problems. Id. at 1512. The petitioner, both before and after the 1982 murder for which he was convicted, had an extensive history of mental problems. He had been admitted to several mental health institutions, and had been diagnosed with, among other things, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, drug dependence, and paranoid personality disorder. Id. at 1515. At one time, a mental health professional had determined that the petitioner was mentally incompetent to stand trial on a bad check charge. Another individual had determined at a later date that the petitioner had become competent, and the petitioner was tried, convicted, and confined on that charge. Trial counsel relied solely on this second opinion, ignoring all other information regarding the petitioner's mental state. Id. Counsel's use of only the second opinion from the bad check case, and his failure to investigate or utilize all information of the petitioner's history of mental illness, and his failure to request a competency hearing, were held to constitute ineffective assistance. Williamson, 110 F.3d at 1516-18.