A decision on whether a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision created a possibility for longtime death-row inmate Frank Jarvis Atwood to get a new sentencing hearing has been delayed by yet another Supreme Court case.
Atwood was convicted of kidnapping and murdering 8-year-old Vicki Lynne Hoskinson. He was sentenced to die in May 1987.
On Thursday, his attorneys tried to persuade U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour to reconsider a 2005 decision that prevented them from arguing that Atwood's original attorney was ineffective during his sentencing hearing.
Attorney Paula Harms argued that the Supreme Court's decision in Martinez v. Ryan significantly changed the law about ineffective-assistance claims and the decision applies in this case.
If the judge finds that the case applies and that Atwood's claim has merit, Atwood could get a new sentencing hearing at which his attorneys plan to present previously unheard evidence about Atwood's mental illness and sexual abuse during adolescence.
Assistant Arizona Attorney General Lacey Gard argued the 2012 decision does not apply, and the judge who sentenced Atwood knew most of the mitigating evidence when he sentenced him to death.
Coughenour declined to rule on the Martinez question until the Supreme Court decides another case, Trevino v. Thaler, which deals with procedures surrounding ineffective-assistance claims.
The oral arguments for the case already have been held.
Contact reporter Carli Brosseau at email@example.com or 573-4197. On Twitter @carlibrosseau