SECTION 1 - COLQUITT
834 F.2d 956 (11th Cir. 1987)
In September 1977, fifteen-year old Ronnie Zamora was placed on trial for first degree murder, burglary, robbery, and possession of a firearm in connection with the slaying of his elderly neighbor, Elinor Haggart. At trial, Zamora raised an insanity defense. His trial counsel, Ellis Rubin, argued that Zamora's insanity had been caused by "television intoxication." This defense was unsuccessful, and Zamora was convicted on all counts. He received concurrent sentences of life imprisonment for murder, twenty-five years each for burglary and robbery, and three years for possession of a firearm. The Florida District Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction. Zamora v. State, 361 So. 2d 776 (Fla. App. 1978). The Florida Supreme Court denied certiorari. Zamora v. State, 372 So. 2d 472 (Fla. 1979).
On February 1, 1980, Zamora filed a motion to vacate the judgment under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.850, claiming that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. After an evidentiary hearing at which Zamora was represented by his present counsel, Ronald Guralnick, the state trial court denied relief. This judgment was affirmed by the Florida District Court of Appeal. Zamora v. State, 422 So. 2d 325 (Fla. App. 1982).
In August 1984, Zamora filed the present petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C.A. § 2254. On April 29, 1986, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida denied the petition in a memorandum opinion adopting and affirming a magistrate's report which held that Zamora had not received ineffective assistance of counsel. Zamora v. Wainwright, 637 F. Supp. 439 (S.D. Fla. 1986). This appeal followed.
Zamora's second claim of ineffective assistance is more difficult to categorize. Zamora argues that Rubin made a mockery of his insanity defense by alleging that it was caused by "television intoxication" even though the cause of insanity is irrelevant to the defense itself. In addition, Zamora claims that Rubin failed to support the defense with any evidence, that trial counsel was unprepared, and that Rubin "sabotaged" the defense by telling the jury that the defendant knew the difference between right and wrong at the time of the commission of the crime.
A partial response to this set of contentions is that Rubin's tactical decision to employ an insanity defense may not have been successful in retrospect, but Strickland v. Washington allows trial counsel great latitude to conduct a defense. 466 U.S. at 689, 104 S. Ct. at 2065. See also Palmes v. Wainwright, 725 F.2d 1511, 1523 (11th Cir.)(attorneys have many legal tools for use in their discretion), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 873, 105 S. Ct. 227, 83 L. Ed. 2d 156 (1984). Moreover, Rubin's attempt to explain Zamora's alleged insanity by claiming it was caused by subliminal "television intoxication" does not render his assistance ineffective.
On the issue of preparation for trial, Rubin testified at the 3.850 hearing that he read many studies linking violence to television viewing. He also interviewed many psychologists regarding television violence, but he was unsuccessful in attempting to introduce their testimony. The evidence suggests that counsel was prepared and that he attempted to develop a defense in a weak case. In addition, the magistrate and district court determined that by focusing on television violence Rubin was able to introduce evidence of Zamora's unfortunate background, to the defendant's advantage.
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