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Vega v Ryan

11-14-2013 Arizona:

Vega v Ryan

The panel reversed the district court’s denial of a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus petition based on ineffective assistance in counsel’s failure to familiarize himself with the file and call witnesses who could provide exculpatory testimony.

After petitioner’s conviction of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, child molestation, and sexual abuse, his trial lawyer learned that the victim had recanted her allegations to her priest. The panel held that counsel’s failure to familiarize himself with petitioner’s file led to a failure to present a key witness to the jury, and that a reasonable lawyer would not have made such an “inexplicable” decision.

The panel also held that counsel’s deficient performance was prejudicial, because the priest’s testimony about the victim’s recantation was not merely cumulative of her own testimony admitting the recantation to her mother, but could have tipped the scales in petitioner’s favor.


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