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Returning from its Thanksgiving break, the Supreme Court on Monday issued a powerful unsigned per curiam opinion agreeing that the ineffective assistance of counsel for Florida death row inmate George Porter Jr. prejudiced the sentence he received after his murder trial in 1988. He was convicted in the murder of a former girlfriend and her boyfriend. The Florida Supreme Court and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals previously rejected his ineffective assistance claim.

Ruling in Porter v. McCollum, available here, the Court extensively detailed Porter’s “horrible family life” and his trying Korean War experiences that earned him two Purple Hearts and other decorations — none of which was told to the trial court as mitigating evidence during sentencing. The trial lawyer’s failure to introduce the evidence “did not reflect reasonable professional judgment” and could well have affected the outcome of the case, the Court said.

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