For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
Date: July 27, 2007
Idaho Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Uphold Max Hoffman’s First-Degree Murder Conviction
(Boise) – The State of Idaho has asked the United States Supreme Court to overturn a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said today. The Ninth Circuit Court ordered that convicted murderer Maxwell Hoffman be released or offered a plea agreement that Hoffman rejected more than 18 years ago.
“We are asking the Supreme Court to reverse this decision because the Ninth Circuit adopted a standard of law that is not supported by United States Supreme Court precedent or the court of any other jurisdiction in the country,” Attorney General Wasden said.
The Ninth Circuit concluded Hoffman’s trial attorney was ineffective when he recommended his client reject a plea offer that would have spared Hoffman the death penalty because his trial attorney’s recommendation was allegedly based upon “incomplete research” and ignored the risks associated with imposition of the death penalty if the plea offer was rejected.
Hoffman was convicted of first degree murder and commission of a felony by use of a deadly weapon for the September 19, 1987, murder of Denise Williams in Owyhee County. Hoffman and his accomplices attacked Williams with knives and crushed her to death under a pile of rocks. Williams had cooperated with police in an investigation of Hoffman’s accomplices’ drug trafficking activities.
Hoffman was found guilty of first-degree murder by a Canyon County jury on March 16, 1989. He was sentenced on June 13, 1989, to death by lethal injection.
The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed Hoffman’s conviction and sentence on January 29, 1993, and dismissed the appeal challenging the dismissal of his successive petition for post conviction relief on December 6, 1996.
Hoffman also sought relief in the federal courts. On December 28, 1998, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill denied Hoffman’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus and lifted a stay of execution. Hoffman appealed Judge Winmill’s decision.
On July 5, 2006, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Judge Winmill. The Ninth Circuit held that Hoffman’s defense attorney had provided ineffective assistance of counsel by recommending that Hoffman reject the state’s plea offer. The court concluded that defense counsel’s representation during the plea bargaining stage was deficient because of “incomplete” research and because of the risk associated with rejecting the offer.
The State of Idaho asked the Ninth Circuit to reconsider its decision and suggested a rehearing “en banc,” that is, before a panel of eleven judges. On March 6, 2007, the Ninth Circuit denied the state’s request for rehearing. However, seven of the Ninth Circuit Court’s judges dissented. Judge Carlos T. Bea, in his dissent, stated, “not only does the panel find deficient performance in an attorney’s failure correctly to predict future court decisions (the Crystal Ball Rule), the panel finds prejudice in a mere supposition by this court that the defendant would have taken the plea had his attorney guessed correctly.”
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