04 June 2023 :
(May 23, 2023) - 9th Circuit Overturns Death Penalty for Tauno Waidla
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in California overturned the death sentence for Tauno Waidla, citing ineffective counsel at the penalty phase of his trial for a 1988 murder that happened during a burglary.
The Appeals court upended a California Supreme Court unanimous decision in 2000 to affirm both the conviction and death sentence for Waidla, when the defense claimed ineffective counsel.
The panel concluded “had the 3 categories of evidence that (trial defense) counsel should have discovered been presented to the jury, there is a reasonable probability that at least one juror would have voted against the death penalty.”
The court’s majority put the blame on Waidla’s attorney for “failing to investigate and present mitigation evidence that competent counsel would have discovered.”
Waidla, an Estonian who emigrated to the U.S. after serving in the Russian Army and got into a money dispute with someone who had helped him in exchange for home improvement work, was caught after he tried to cross the U.S./Canadian border in 1988. He a weapon and letter that allegedly incriminated him in the hatchet murder of the person he had a dispute with earlier.