The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Frost v. Pryor on Friday, April 25, 2014.
Frost was convicted in Kansas state court of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. During the trial, the child’s mother testified about certain medical treatment she sought for the child. Frost instructed his attorney to obtain medical records to rebut the mother’s testimony, but the attorney did not do so. Frost also wanted his attorney to obtain witness testimony that the mother threatened to send him back to prison, which the attorney did not do. Frost moved for a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel, but the state court denied his motion and he was sentenced to 204 months in prison. Frost appealed his conviction to the Kansas Court of Appeals based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The Kansas court upheld his conviction, determining that although the trial counsel provided deficient performance by failing to request the child’s medical records, the counsel’s performance did not prejudice Frost. The Kansas Supreme Court declined review.
Frost then sought a writ of habeas corpus due to ineffective assistance of trial counsel regarding the failure to obtain the medical records, and on several other grounds as well. The federal court denied relief on the first ineffective assistance claim relating to the child’s medical records because of the deference owed to state court decisions on the merits under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). The court dismissed Frost’s remaining claims as procedurally barred. However, it issued a certificate of appealability on the sole issue of whether Frost’s trial counsel was unconstitutionally ineffective regarding the failure to obtain the medical records.
Frost appealed to the Tenth Circuit, arguing that the district court incorrectly denied habeas relief based on the ineffective assistance of the trial counsel, and also arguing for relief on his procedurally barred claims. After an extensive analysis of the lower court rulings and AEDPA’s mandates, the Tenth Circuit determined that the severe constraints of AEDPA review precluded reversal and affirmed.