Ohio lawyer with extensive experience in death-penalty litigation in Ohio and federal courts
Sweeney is an experienced death-penalty litigator
Sweeney’s litigation practice, since the 1990’s, has included extensive and comprehensive experience representing numerous death-sentenced Ohio prisoners in challenging their convictions and/or death sentences before state and federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Capital litigation is among the most complex and challenging type of litigation that occurs in federal and state courts. Capital litigation frequently involves claims that are highly fact-intensive and based upon enormous records. The controlling legal doctrines, both procedural and substantive, are highly complex, and they frequently evolve and change, including because of the heightened scrutiny such cases receive from the courts. This area of practice demands and cultivates strong litigation skills.
Sweeney’s representation of capital clients occurs most frequently in their federal habeas corpus and related federal proceedings, and is conducted by appointment of the federal courts under the Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3006A, which has been called “the gold standard of public defense.” https://www.uscourts.gov/news/2014/08/20/criminal-justice-act-50-years-landmark-right-counsel.
Sweeney’s representation of death sentenced clients has also included appointments for trial-court proceedings in the Ohio state courts, for appeals of convictions and death sentences to the Ohio Supreme Court, and for post-conviction litigation in the Ohio state courts.
A representative sampling of reported court decisions in which Sweeney has been directly involved as counsel for capital clients includes, among many others, the following court decisions:
- Scott v. Mitchell, 209 F.3d 854 (6th Cir. 2000) (rejected constitutional challenge to conviction and death sentence; court noted in its opinion that Sweeney and his co-counsel “performed commendably on appeal”), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 1021 (2000).
- Scott v. Mitchell, 250 F.3d 1011 (6th Cir. 2001) (addressed issues concerning the constitutionally of executing an inmate with severe mental illness).
- State v. Scott, 92 Ohio St. 3d 1 (2001) (addressed Ohio’s standards for adjudicating competency to be executed).
- Williams v. Anderson, 460 F.3d 789 (6th Cir. 2006) (death sentence set aside in constitutional challenge to conviction and death sentence).
- Biros v. Bagley, 422 F.3d 379 (6th Cir. 2006) (reversed sentencing relief granted by district court in constitutional challenge to conviction and death sentence), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 853 (2006).
- Johnson v. Mitchell, 585 F.3d 923 (6th Cir. 2009) (death sentence set aside in constitutional challenge to conviction and death sentence).
- Treesh v. Bagley, 612 F.3d 424 (6th Cir. 2010), cert. denied, 533 U.S. 904 (2001) (rejected constitutional challenge to conviction and death sentence), cert. denied, 562 U.S. 1290 (2011).
- State v. Keenan, 143 Ohio St. 3d 397 (2013) (reversed trial court’s with-prejudice dismissal of capital case because of prosecutorial misconduct, and addressed Ohio standards for such dismissals).
- State v. Broom, 146 Ohio St. 3d 60 (2016), cert. denied, 137 S. Ct. 590 (2016) (addressed issues concerning second execution attempt after State botched first attempt), cert. denied, 137 S. Ct. 590 (2016).
- State v. Thomas, 2017-Ohio-8011 (Ohio Supreme Ct. Oct. 4, 2017) (death sentence vacated and new trial ordered).