For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
Date: January 7, 2008
U.S. Supreme Court Vacates Ruling in Max Hoffman Case
(Boise) – The United States Supreme Court today set aside a lower court decision that ordered the State of Idaho to release Maxwell Hoffman or offer him a plea agreement that he rejected prior to his 1989 trial. The Ninth Circuit had held that Hoffman’s attorney had provided ineffective assistance during plea negotiations prior to Hoffman’s trial.
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Ninth Circuit “to the extent that it addressed that claim” and sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit “with directions that it instruct the United States District Court for the District of Idaho to dismiss the relevant claim with prejudice.”
On November 5, 2007, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the state’s appeal from the Ninth Circuit. However, Hoffman’s attorneys subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the appeal, stating that Hoffman wished to withdraw his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel and dismiss his Ninth Circuit appeal with regard to the plea offer. The effect of Hoffman’s motion was to provide the relief sought by the state. As a result, the state did not oppose the motion.
“The decision entered by the Supreme Court today vindicates our decision asking that the Ninth Circuit’s decision be reversed,” Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said. “The Supreme Court granted the relief requested by the state in its Petition for Certiorari filed July 26, 2007.”
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. A Canyon County jury returned the guilty verdicts on March 16, 1989. On June 13, 1989, he was sentenced to death.
Pursuant to the Supreme Court’s decision, the case will be returned to the Ninth Circuit, which must vacate its order requiring the state release Hoffman or offer him a plea agreement “with the same material terms offered in the original plea agreement.” Once the Ninth Circuit enters a new opinion or order, the case will be returned to U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill with instructions to dismiss Hoffman’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel during plea negotiations with prejudice.
Based upon Judge Winmill’s prior finding of ineffective assistance of counsel during sentencing, the state anticipates that Judge Winmill will enter an order requiring that Hoffman be resentenced.
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